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Letter: An Orange and Blue American Dream

I’ve been thinking a lot, of late, about the shape of things to come with respect to the whole American Dream thing here on suburban Long Island; what it’ll look like a generation hence and/or what I’d like it to look like - and the reality that will fall somewhere betwixt. I always think of these things in summertime because seeing block parties, barbecues, and people lovingly tending their patch of earth makes me think of the American Dream.

Remember Kurt Vonnegut’s anti-hero Harrison Bergeron? His 2081 might have looked like suburbia circa 1960. Our 2081 will not. (However, I can imagine how, after decades of social upheaval and global anarchy that utterly altered the concept of national identity and reconfigured the world’s map, some retro paradigm might appear forward-looking).

Maybe 21st century suburban Long Island will look different with its solar panels, wind turbines, and airships. Maybe we will look more rural as the twilight of fossil fuel-driven agribusiness converts lawns, parks, school yards, closed-off side streets, shopping malls, and underutilized car lots into vegetable gardens, corn and potato fields, apple orchids, and firewood lots with high-yield genetically-engineered crops. Maybe we will look more urban as districts and incorporated villages consolidate into unified municipal government and zoning codes allow for jobs-creating industries owned and operated by Long Islanders. Maybe public transport will begin replacing automobiles and suburbanites will learn to walk, ride trolleys, bicycles, and other cardio-vascular enhancing means of getting about. Maybe school districts, police departments, and fire companies will be privatized into public service cooperatives in which Levittowners are citizen-shareholders. Maybe our leaders will overcome their addiction to governmental bureaucracy, patronage, corporate profits, special interest groups, and the demands of the citizens of foreign countries and adopt a philosophy that favors stable communities, intact middle class families, and a common heritage and set of values. Maybe the orange-and-blue flag of an independent Long Island will flap over the houses that Levitt built - something I’ve long advocated. (Just look what Singapore accomplished with far less). Maybe suburbanites will become as interested in their children’s education and quality of life in their community as they are in sitcoms, celebrities, and sports figures - then civility, professionalism, and community spirit won’t be deemed quaint Victorian customs. Maybe. Who really knows?

Somebody once told me that he thought Long Island was too densely populated to be a suburb in the 1950s sense and too spread-out to be a metropolis. It would have to develop its own socio-political identity. Certainly, as Michael A. Miller pointed out in the June 11, 2010 issue of Levittown Tribune, “there can still be a suburban dream here, but it can’t be the dream of 1960. Not anymore.”

Paul Manton