Any Calvin and Hobbes fans around? Try to imagine what Calvin would have been like with no woods in sight, with only brick and concrete to explore. Or how about the Taxi Driver types, looking with disgust at the neon-lit trash and boarded-up storefronts around them - could such attitudes survive a drive down Anne Shirley's White Way of Delight?
Look, I know that these things shouldn't matter, that what matters is on the inside, not the outside, etc, etc. I got plenty of pushback in a prior post arguing in favor of more grown up clothing (hey, at least Peggy Noonan agrees with me about the 'mooks' [update: PJ O'Rourke does, too!]), and I'm sure many will raise similar objections: God no more cares about our landscaping than our laundry, and the divine truths of the world are just as accessible in the projects as in the prairie. Granted, granted. But, generally speaking, I am speaking generally. The good will find goodness, the evildoers evil, no matter the setting. That leaves the rest of us, for whom circumstances matter. And I think that, no matter what you American Beauty fans say, it is easier to lift one's soul with a view of the woods at sunset, and thoughts of their creator, than by contemplating a discarded plastic bag, and its supermarket logo.
I'm biased, I admit it: I grew up just like Calvin or Anne or Christopher Robin, exploring the woods with only my faithful dog and my imagination by my side (returning as an adult, I was shocked by how small that forest was; just fifteen years ago, it had been my whole world). I live in the city now, and, spending time in the 'underserved urban communities,' I just don't understand how people can raise their kids surrounded by liquor stores and graffiti. Yes, I believe the breakdown of the family is the single most influential factor in our current state of affairs, but couldn't a single mom at the least raise her innocent, curious babe somewhere in the vicinity of shrubbery? The government can mail welfare checks to the countryside, too, can't it?
I'm not talking just about the hopelessly poor; my apartment building is full of young professional couples skilled at squeezing strollers into packed elevators. Raising my child in an apartment, with carpeted hallways instead of hills, stairwells and parking garages instead of squirrels and sparrows, I don't know, I don't think I could do it. Well, actually, no squirrels would've been nice, I hate those tulip-eating jerks.
So what do you guys think?
(As for the election season political angle, well, I bet you can just about guess my thoughts on the Obama administration's latest attack on child farmers...)