On Shallow Optimism: Special David Brooks and the Exurbs Edition


In which The Gay Recluse wonders why David Brooks is still in office.

Ohai! We thought we’d play a lil game in which we pull quotes from three pieces about the exurbs, two written in 2k4 by David Brooks in The Times — “Take a Ride to Exurbia”  on the opinion page and “Our Sprawling, Supersize Utopia” in the magazine — and the other — “In Florida, Despair and Foreclosure” — published today (i.e., 2k9) in The Times. Try to guess when the quotes were written, and by whom — click through for answers! (Note: there’s one trick question — guess which one it is.)


I came out with a book on the booming exurbs – places like the I-4 corridor in central Florida and Henderson, Nev. These are the places where George Bush racked up the amazing vote totals that allowed him to retain the presidency.


Early last year, garage sales and estate auctions became more common in Lehigh Acres as families sold what they could to survive.


I’m so impressed by Karl Rove. As a group of Times reporters demonstrated in Sunday’s paper, the Republicans achieved huge turnout gains in exurbs like the ones in central Florida.


Home prices have collapsed, and many houses built during the housing bubble have been foreclosed or abandoned.


[C]riticisms don’t get suburbia right. They don’t get America right. The criticisms tend to come enshrouded in predictions of decline or cultural catastrophe. Yet somehow imperial decline never comes, and the social catastrophe never materializes.


Hunger has become a growing problem.


[P]eople move to exurbs because they want some order in their lives. They leave places with arduous commutes, backbreaking mortgages, broken families and stressed social structures and they head for towns with ample living space, intact families, child-friendly public culture and intensely enforced social equality.


[I]t went from housing market boomtown to its current landscape of abandoned developments and struggling businesses. No one seemed interested in buying whole houses, and foreclosures soon gave way to empty homes that became magnets for crime.


[T]here is this spot you can get to where all tensions will melt, all time pressures will be relieved and happiness can be realized.


Signs of trouble were ignored. “Sometimes houses would sell three or four times in a few months, and no one would move in.”


Get out into the sprawl, into that other conversation. Take your time. It’s a new world out there.


Panic is a powerful headwind.


Poets, pundits, philosophers and politicians, take note! This is not the story of nations or other one-hit wonders, nor is it the story of religion, for which so many millions have died in futile anger and delusion. It is certainly not the history of capital, although this too has been a scourge; no, friends, these are distractions from the real story, which is the slow but relentless rise of the city. Incomprehensible beauty and despair! Inexplicable dissonance and distortion! Inalterable repudiation of all political philosophers and religious zealots who would explain our existence without acknowledging the seething allure of the trains and tunnels, the buildings and bridges of this endlessly mutating labyrinth into which we must cast ourselves to find civilized life! How sorry and sad — which is to say, irrelevant — are the candidates — which is to say, all of them — who fail to discuss the implications of this truth; how tiresome the critics and commentators who obscure it with egocentric jargon about freedom and community. Is it not immediately obvious who among them has or has not walked the streets, and not only in the tedious safety of the day but in the more barren and remote hours of the night, when we are possessed by creaking gates, distant gunshots and — most of all — the pounding, subterranean space we learn to call our heart?

[All pix except the GWB by Chip Litherland for The New York Times]

3 Responses to “On Shallow Optimism: Special David Brooks and the Exurbs Edition”

  1. I have often wondered the same question about Brooks. But then I also wonder it about the Times’ in charge guy Bill Keller, who wrote that appalling, lengthy and jejune “Isn’t he wonderful? Let’s give him a chance!” piece on our now ex-Prez, early in Bush fils’ first term. It’s one thing to be wrong. It’s another to be so over and over and over.

  2. James of the Moons- anyone who can use the word jejune and get away with it is OK by me. It does sound nicer than insipid. I think there was a joke on “Frasier” about the use of jejune. I miss that show.

    Does Bush really believe that history will remember him well? Case in point: Ronald Reagan International Airport. Here is a leader who avoided saying the word AIDS in public for seven years into his presidency and did everything he could to obstruct sensible prevention education and research. Now that he is dead, they remember as the “great” president of the modern era. Makes me want to vomit. I feel bad for their children who had to be forced into marriages or silence.

    When holocaust denial is still the talk of the Vatican, you can be assured that our short-term memory will foster the movement toward naming airports after W.

  3. 3 tailgunner

    I hope you’re not trying to show 2 or 3 dilapidated homes over and over in order to make some kind of point on urban blight….but it sure looks like it.

    Cheap shot, pal.

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