Sunday, June 12, 2011

Wars and American Roads

June 11, 2011

By Saeed Qureshi

The disastrous impact of the decade long distant wars is writ large on the deteriorating roads of the United States. Bumpy, pot-holed, eroded roads are now an eye sore for the commuters and drivers who hurl curses when rudely jerked by a road with a ditch or that is crudely plastered. These roads used to be sparking, soft, and smooth and properly lined-up a decade ago.

In downtown or interior of cities such a Dallas, Fort Worth and various counties and cities, the roads are coming off and remain so for weeks and months without being repaired. The city administration's departments looking after the roads send inexperienced and technically unfit contractors or the workers to fill the gaping holes.

They simply dump lumps of coal-tar or similar material on the pothole without leveling it off. The bump or the protruded mound gives a jerk to every car or vehicle that passes over it.

I have been traveling on 408 spur road (linking loop 12 and I-20) for quite some time. There was a cleavage on the location where the link road would join with the I-20 highway. The fissure was quite irritating as there was a sharp iron ingot that imbedded on one side of the cleavage.

That cleavage was there for almost a year and had been shattering every vehicle that would pass over it. The sharp steel portion would erode or shave off the tire bit by bit if one has to per force travel on that road two times a day.

It was after almost a year that it was repaired by plastering it with a one foot wide layer of asphalt but it still is uneven and keeps the drivers in a state of alert when approaching it.
The Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex that is a conglomeration of several cities and counties is infested with worn out and decrepit roads both two-way and one-way. The upper layers on most of these roads are corroding for years now but the municipal authorities have never thought of repairing or resurfacing these.

One can cite the roads in Arlington and in Grand Prairie in such poor conditions that one would simply recall the period before the world war second or when America had not attained the astonishing level of modernity, wealth and prosperity.

The interstate highways and motorways were constructed in America during the great depression of 1930s when people were ready to work even for a penny an hour. The labor was as cheap as dust or the running water in rivers. A few highways were later added but there is a dire need to expand these interstate autobahns to cater for the burgeoning traffic.

Inside the cities the lane delineation marks have faded on many roads and it would be quite hazardous to keep the vehicle on the right track to avoid accident. At night, because of the insufficient light, the danger of safe driving on these dilapidated roads heightens. Most of the roads in Texas and perhaps in other states are in a state of acute disrepair.

There used to be signboards indicating the next road in order for the drivers to be able to take right or left turn or remain in the middle. On most of the city roads those signs are missing and it becomes quite an ordeal at the fag-end to turn to the extreme left or right depending upon one’s location on the road.

The traffic lights that should reflect after sunset so that the names of the streets can be read are, dim or opaque on countless roads making the drivers crazy and desperate. In their bid to focus on the road name by looking up, there are possibilities of accidents that have happened and are still happening.

Comparing the worsening and dilapidated conditions of roads in many cities and localities, one is reminded of the poor third countries where such road mismanagement prevails and there is always a mess and mayhem on the roads. The examples of such countries are Pakistan, Egypt, Thailand, India, Bangladesh, and Indonesia to name a few.

The paramount question is why this decline and decay is taking roots and spreading ominously. The reasons are not difficult to figure out. The United States has been funneling money to distant lands to wage wars after the World War II and there is no respite in it except a brief interregnum after the ruinous Vietnam War.

The adverse fallout of spending abroad in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan at the cost of the welfare and upkeep of its own people is dreadfully manifest in deteriorating civic and socio-economic conditions within America. The United States is building roads and highways and schools and hospitals in Iraq but not doing it for their own population who pay taxes for a decent life.

The burgeoning bill on wars is gradually robbing the splendor and glitter on the face of United States as a super power that we see in the Hollywood movies and that was factual a few decades ago. In commercial movies and in documentaries we would think of America as a wonderland.

Even from statements of the visitors to this magnificent country, we would come to know with awe, about the high-rise buildings, the sky-scrappers, the wide roads sparkling with profusion of lights, glittering wide bodied cars and carefree citizens kicking around with glare of happiness on their faces.

That period of bliss has gone and now the American citizens find the Kroger closed at midnight, the Walmart opening one or two registers at night and the shoppers making long queues wasting their precious times.

The larceny and thefts and crimes have been on the rise. The psychological and mental pressures and depression, due to financial hardships and unable to sustain and pay bill on times and go out for vacation breaks, are visible on the faces of countless citizens that we come across.

The social security is under pressure as are the health and human services. The request for unemployment wages are escalating. The educational institutions and hospitals are curtailing their services and staff thus negatively impinging upon the marvelous standards this glorious country was famous for.

The inflow of foreign students has drastically slowed down if not halted altogether. The research and scientific inventions and discoveries are on the backburner as there are not enough funds to cater for these highly vital enterprises.

In a nutshell, United States is being pushed backward because the wealth that it creates is being wasted on counterproductive pursuits, projects and ventures. Ironically United States is running its war machine on the credit given by ideologically and economically global rival China. With this credit America is keeping its distant war tempo intact. It is like burning money in a furnace getting ash in return.

How long United States can maintain these fruitless wars and keep its own people suffering from and deprived of the benefits and comforts of a modern society, is a stultifying projection.

The Western Europe that was rebuilt and rehabilitated after the Second World War with America’s financial support has created societies that are resplendent with abundance of the modern civic amenities and galore of social benefits.

Has the decline like great empires of the past,started earlier in the Unites States than it should have been?

The writer is a senior journalist and a former diplomat
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1 comment:

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