I don’t hate cars
Can I still be a good climate-woke lib?
“For a century, we’ve loved our cars. They haven’t loved us back.”
So offered a New Yorker story headline in 2019.
This was before Covid thinned the roads of cars and let streateries take over the streets with eateries. Until somewhat post-Covid when cars came back with a vengeance like Covid is trying to do.
Thousands of well-wrought insights later, the New Yorker Zillennial writer’s conclusion was nuanced but no surprise: Cars are like literally toxic, traumatizing and terrifying.
Not so long ago, young people loved cars. Many yearned for the freedom of driving and dreamed of owning even a grandparent-discarded Oldsmobile. Rockers extolled little red Corvettes, pink Cadillacs, rockin’ down the highway, truckin’, and paradise by the dashboard light. The Cars implored, who’s gonna drive you home … tonight?
You get my four-wheel drift.
But today’s young people hate cars, according to Googling “young people hate cars.”
The voice and conscience of today’s youth — privileged progressive Zillennials and their media peers who celebrate their greatest generations — declare that cars are completely suss and shame car people.
Progressive Zillennials don’t need cars.
The mostly white, privileged, college-educated climate-woke love to peacock about living in urbanist high walk-score cities and communities. They enjoy the virtue-preening luxury of being carless.
I’m a longtime city-dweller. I remember when a guy at a party bragged about not owning a car. As the party was winding down, he went around trying to bum a lift home. (This was before Lyft or Uber.)
Back then we called his ilk “phonies” like J.D. Salinger’s Holden Caufield might, instead of “douches” like we would today.
The post-Covid workplace flexibility that Zillennials demand for their invaluable contributions to the bottom line — while they also righteously despise capitalism — gives them leverage to quiet-quit or Instagram during Zoom work calls from home.
Progressive Zillennials can’t afford cars.
Many capitalism-hating/benefiting Zillennials struggle with historic challenges that their Boomer and Gen X parents or grandparents could neither imagine nor suffer.
You know, starting with devastating housing prices and student loan debt, and continuing to $7 locavore IPAs pints, $25 DoorDash vegan-adjacent grass-fed beef burritos, and $30 Lyft or Uber rides across town.
Don’t even mention the exorbitant car payments, maintenance and insurance as well as racist White Western paternalistic police entrapping innocent citizens with costly speeding and parking tickets.
Progressive Zillennials care deeply about our planet.
Certainly, way more than Boomers and Gen X who fund Zillennials’ college and post-college lives, yet ruined the planet they bequeathed to their children. Mostly by expanding their carbon footprint by having children.
But the kids are alright because they’re fighting the global climate disaster they’re causing by existing. Existentialism can be motivating.
Not always, though. An exclusive private high school near me ($240,000+ for frosh through senior) brands itself as exceptionally progressive climate woke.
Yet neighbors of the school are angry about the long line of parents idling in Range Rovers and other giant SUVs waiting to drop off and pick up their Gen Z kids. Who live well within walking or biking distance from their multimillion-dollar homes. To be fair, some parents drive $100,000 Tesla SUVs.
Progressive Zillennials love-hate the working class who need cars.
Most wage-slave Americans depend on cars — often horrifying gas-guzzlers cars and even monstrous pickup trucks — to get to work and do their work.
Many if not most can’t afford to live in proudly car-free gentrifying urban walkable communities. Most couldn’t possibly walk or bike or take unreliable public transit to get to their 2–3 jobs.
Most Americans — poor or privileged — need to drive. Instead of going postal, i.e., completing their rounds on foot or bike whether in snow, rain, heat, or gloom of night.
Progressive Zillennials only indirectly depend on cars.
Many count on working-class Americans who need cars or trucks to tend their urbanist walkable community apartment buildings and homes, schools, parks and public works such as dedicated bike lanes.
Progressive Zillennials also need the working-class car-dependent to pour their locavore IPAs and cook and serve their authentic, non-cultural-appropriating ethic cuisine and then bus their tables and wash their dishes.
Most wage-working Americans can’t afford to live in Zillennial paradise but rather need to commute from suburbs where housing is cheaper.
Yet the Zillennials don’t mind making worker commutes tougher by narrowing major arteries needed by thousands of commuters a day to build dedicated bike lanes for dozens of progressive cyclists.
“Everyone should be cycling!” proclaim the righteous cyclists who are mostly White male privileged. It’s not at all like saying, “let them eat cake.”
Progressive Zillennials think America should be more like carless Europe.
Those who’ve visited the EU during senior year abroad or tourist trips, or cite bias-confirming articles, declare that America should be carless like, for instance, Amsterdam.
In Amsterdam, drivers are the hated minority. Most families cheerfully walk or bike to school, work or shopping in wooden shoes amid all manner of horrible Northern European weather.
Not so fast, many Amsterdam pedestrians and bikers scream when a cyclist nearly runs them over, which is often.
“Don’t look to Amsterdam for the future of better biking in the United States, the pro-biking bikelaw.com warns. “Bicycle utopia was what I expected. What Amsterdam turned out to be was altogether different, a bicycle dystopia.” It was “stressful, chaotic and generally unpleasant” for him, his wife and 11-year-old daughter, he says.
To progressive Zillennial car-haters, however, Amsterdam is like Disneyworld, where nobody drives the 43 square miles. You get around by van or bus service, monorail, skyliner, water and walking paths.
America is not progressive Zillennial Fantasyland.
Our cities and communities are more complicated transportation-wise because they formed and spread more haphazardly over centuries. This cannot be undone by sudden progressive Zillennial rhetorical guilt-tripping fiat.
Nothing wrong with pushing America and policymakers to wean from petrol-powered cars and trucks. The major automakers are putting big money into electric cars and solving their drawbacks. The Biden infrastructure plan will modernize and expand public transit — a big lift in such a big country.
That’s not enough, Zillennial progressives thunder. We need action now to save the planet and children from deadly cars.
Until, perhaps, when they spawn their own planet-killing children, move from urbanist apartments to bigger, cheaper homes in the ‘burbs, and depend on cars — large ones — to shop the big boxes and cart their kinderen to myriad activities.
Nothing makes people more realistic than reality.
Jeffrey Denny is a Washington writer.