We are encouraged to believe the myth of a polarized America, but in reality most of us essentially want the same things: we want our economy to prosper, we want our streets to be safe, and we want our children to have promising futures. We all, at the end of the day, basically just want to be happy. While our everyday lives seem complicated, our desires usually aren’t.
Our government, unfortunately, almost never really reflects this.
There are major, pressing issues at our door that, while difficult, are ours to solve thanks to the timing of our births. We live in an age of unprecedented advancement, but not all of that progress has been for the better. Our planet is being rapidly and irrevocably altered, and our environment is changing in ways that increasingly affect us all. While you can deny it all you want, you or someone you know will eventually need FEMA: http://www.theatlanticcities.
When faced with a crisis it seems there are two ways Americans can go: we can polarize and itemize, pick and choose our Constitutional issues and vote according to uncompromising ideals, or we can band together, fortified by our cohesive strength, and help to lift each other up.
In my lifetime, I have seen the country do this once, in the aftermath of 9/11.
My parents and their parents have seen similar moments of grief and hope interspersed throughout the last century, at turning points when great accomplishments were made possible by we The People’s belief in a common cause.
It seems to me that we may be on the cusp of such a moment now, and that if pushed hard enough, we may find the gumption to not only push back, but push forward.
With this in mind, it is my firm conviction that Americans can and will sacrifice on a personal level in order to obtain some societal gain—we have done so numerous times in the past decades, forfeiting civil liberties in the name of national security and soldiers’ lives in the name of bringing “democracy” to the Middle East. We have shown that in order to strengthen ourselves as a whole, we are willing to give as individuals, and in that vein there is no reason to assume that the pressing and urgent issues at hand today cannot be solved by and large by individual citizens.
Now all we need is the solution.
It seems obvious, though important, to point out that in order to “solve” this problem, one variable must be emphasized, and that is the burning of fossil fuels. The essential truth about finite resources is that they will eventually run out. Oil is simply too expensive and too limited to continue to be the crux of our fuel economy, and as demand continues to rise in the rest of the world, there will be less and less to go around, and we will have to go to greater and greater lengths to find more. Plus most of it is controlled by nations unsympathetic to our issues with gas prices, who could easily throw our entire economy into chaos by cutting us off. Even if you don’t think our reliance on oil is an environmental problem, you can’t deny it has become a massive economic problem– even a national security threat. Thus, the argument stands: we must reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. There is a very good reason oil-rich nations are investing so much in renewable energy, and we would be wise to follow suit: http://www.smartplanet.com/
In America, a land largely dominated by and designed around automobiles, the oil variable not only affects the economy and the global oil market, but more importantly, it affects almost every citizen who needs to get to work, pick their kids up from day care, or buy a carton of milk; And to that end it is largely an individual variable, multiplied by the millions of cars that hit the road every day. Again, this all seems obvious, and it brings me to my obvious conclusion: that in order to solve this problem, we are going to have to drive less.
I say “drive less” instead of “drive differently” because auto manufacturers, though clearly working toward the possibility of hybrid/electric/corn-fed cars, have stated time and time again that the transition will inevitably be slow, arduous, and wrought with opposition, which it certainly has been to this point. With that in mind, until the “gas variable” is reduced by fuel-efficient or environmentally friendly cars (presumably when they become the industry standard, are affordable, and make up the majority of cars in the country, a transition that at the current rate could take decades,) we must then decrease it by the only means available, which means on an individual level of driving less, if at all.
Here’s where that individual sacrifice idea comes in. And once again, I think we can look to the Middle East for inspiration.
Solutions to problems of this nature are often arbitrarily decided, in order to be more fair—things like the military draft, the random audit, and the speeding ticket are largely luck-of-the-draw, but serve a compelling societal and governmental interest. You may not be the one chosen, but someone has to be.
In this instance, I think it best to go the way of the draft, which discriminates based on sex. The sexes are usually seen as equal under the law, but sometimes, differentiation is acceptable.
It is fun to say that women are terrible drivers, like it is fun for a teenage boy to make a joke about a bitch getting him a sandwich, or playing the “Penis Game” at camp. Men actually cause and are in more accidents than women, but in my experience the really terrible drivers are equally dispersed among the sexes– men tend to be more aggressive and self-important when they are bad, or simply glide around the road like their old-white-man privilege gives them the right to ignore most of what’s going on around them. Women, when they’re awful. tend to be defensive, driving 45 in the middle lane on the highway and acting like they aren’t an even bigger hazard by getting in everyone’s damn way. (And, of course, making the angry men even angrier.) Because c’mon— it’s a temporary barrier on the shoulder, not laser wire that’s going to reach out and destroy you if you go a mile over the reduced speed limit. Also, have you ever been in a carpool line? I won’t say more.
With this in mind, I find it only fitting that the less likely users of automobiles (men drive more, which also explains having more accidents,) should stop using them altogether.
And so we come to a logical solution: In order to solve the climate crisis and the growing oil crisis, women should no longer be able to drive.
By taking away a woman’s right to drive, we will HALVE the number of drivers polluting, congesting and generally mucking up our nation’s roads. We will see increases in carpooling and ride sharing, and voters will support (in many cases demand) the expansion and improvement of public transportation systems. With demand for gas dramatically decreased, the “free market” would suggest that oil companies will be forced to lower their prices, assuaging demands on drivers’ pocketbooks. Of course, given the rising demand elsewhere and the strict market control enforced by OPEC this probably wouldn’t happen, but then maybe people would notice that and start asking questions about this arrangement. And imagine a 50% decrease in auto-related fatalities. That is, I shit you not, 20,000 American lives, every year.
Now, there will naturally need to be some exceptions to this rule. I propose this ban on women drivers only expand to “private” drivers, of their own cars—that is, bus drivers, Fed Ex employees, and pizza delivery drivers will still be able to drive transportation as a part of their jobs. 16 year-old girls will still be able to obtain licenses to this effect, but will no longer be able to drive themselves to school.
I have no doubt that many people will express outrage and disbelief at this idea, but really, if you think about it, it’s a lot less ridiculous than allowing Prohibition, or for that matter, the Patriot Act. Naturally this will require a restructuring of many lives, and for some, it will not be easy. The rewards, however, will greatly outweigh these inconveniences.
Aside from the obvious environmental and economic benefits, an increased public interest in transportation will lead to better, more cohesive communities, where people carpool and ride the bus together. Women will walk more, and get more beneficial exercise- can we solve the obesity epidemic as well? Why not! This solution will positively affect many aspects of an individual’s life, but requires only one sacrifice. And in this day and age, we are used to having our rights restricted anyway. If the government can get involved in my uterus, why not my Honda?
Now, naturally, there needs to be some degree of give-and-take. As women will be sacrificing a right that they have previously enjoyed, it seems only fair that men do the same during the interim of this experiment. I propose the following sacrifice for many of the same reasons as I proposed the first:
Men may drive more, but they vote a lot less. Men are less likely to become personally involved in political action, and tend to be more out of touch with current issues. Also, women were denied the right to vote for the majority of this nations’ history. I think some reparations are in order.
So, it seems, the natural counter to the women’s sacrifice is for men to lose their right to vote.
Again, this will serve a compelling societal interest— the “War on Women” I keep hearing about will hopefully cease fire, and perhaps our uteri will gain a bit more autonomy. This will not be a government takeover– that would be impossible, given how few women there are in it to begin with. Men will still be able to hold and run for public office, and work in politics to their hearts’ content. We know that women are not inclined to vote for their own sex, and in many cases are even negatively disposed to such an idea, but men in politics will be forced to acknowledge a perspective that they rarely do today.
This will ensure more discussion of issues that are important to women nationwide, such as education, health care, and the environment. Advocating and perpetuating war, issues so often prioritized by men, will seem less relevant in the face of a domestic-minded electorate. Because they will not be heard on election day, men will have to become more politically involved outside the voting booth to effect change.
The balance of power, thrown off by women losing the right to drive, will undoubtedly be leveled out by their increased importance in the democratic process.
Will everyone be happy about this compromise? Of course not! But the more important question is: WILL IT WORK?
Obviously I see enormous potential.
There are real, serious problems for us to solve, and it is apparent that we Americans are capable of great personal sacrifice in order to overcome them.
We must band together to heal and strengthen this nation, and we must turn to radical solutions if we are to enjoy the effects of change in our lifetime.
And together, we can set this ship aright.