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June 2nd, 2009:

#16. Cheap gas

Cheapest gas yetThe economy is shit, the auto industry is collapsing, and it seems like every other house is in foreclosure. But on the bright side, at least gas is still cheap!

Why is that important? Because in America, cheap gas = freedom.

Sure, things like democratic elections and the right to a fair trial are important. But almost everyone has those things these days. You can go on a crime spree that stretches from the beaches of Normandy to the Bering Straits and be comfortable with the fact that you’ll receive at least the semblance of a fair trial no matter which country you’re apprehended in. And as far as voting goes, hell, they’re even allowed to do that in Iran these days—and Iran is part of the Axis of Evil!

But cheap gas, combined with a credit-fueled car culture, is something uniquely American. Where else in the world can you jump in a car your own and drive across two states on only $40 worth of gas? Where else is it cost effective to take the car when you go out pick up the mail in the morning? Where is gas so cheap that you can drive around in your military-size vehicle with your windows down and your air conditioning on— just because you feel like it?

Nowhere.

Sure they’ve got cheap gas in places like Venezuela, but no one can afford a car there. And of course Europe has modern auto finance figured out, but gas taxes are so high that commuting is unaffordable for the average person, let alone the leisurely Sunday drive.

Of course there are those who frown on America’s cheap gas / big car ways. They say that Americans need to give up their cars and bike or take mass transit to work. But these criticisms tend to come from the kind of people who see waiting 30 minutes for a bus as a fun start to a night out on the town. Besides, who is going to ride a bike to work? Bikes don’t have heated seats, let alone air conditioning, navigation systems and accessible cup holders.

What the naysayers don’t understand is that the fundamental promise of America—big houses, bigger dreams and the endless bounty of the West—requires cheap and easy transportation. You can’t be expected to walk to the corner store when all your neighbors live on five-acre lots. You can’t afford to let a late bus derail your big dreams. And as for the promise of westward expansion, well, Manifest Destiny requires mobility. Our forefathers never would have opened up the West if they were sitting around waiting for the trolley car to take them there.

Sure, the world might be going to hell all around us, but as long as we Americans have our cars and a tank full of cheap gas, we will be OK.

We might even make it to a drive-thru while we’re out.

God Bless America!

Previous topics mentioned in this post:

#2. Drive-Thrus

#3. Cup Holders

€4. Inadequate air conditioning

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