Surely one of the most elemental, fundamental forms of independence is self-locomotion: walking and running, meandering and strolling, riding a bicycle or rolling one’s wheelchair, pushing a baby stroller to the library or pulling a Radio Flier home from the grocery store. Yet in the past 60 years our society has done its utmost to undermine and destroy this independence.
Didn’t we realize that a house out in the country would make it impossible for our child to literally skip on over to friends’ houses? Didn’t we see that all the driving we and our neighbors would do meant living in terror that our adolescent would ride his bicycle beyond our “safe” cul-de-sac? Didn’t we anticipate that building the new school at the far edge of town diminished possibilities for teenagers in the former heart of the village to walk to football practice?
Is all the “splendid isolation” in our lives – seclusion within spacious houses and fenced yards and climate-controlled motor vehicles – worth it? Is importing 70% of our car fuel “independence”? If we would only stop and think, we would know better. But where I live (Oregon, Wisconsin, population 8,721), few are willing to even admit these mistakes. Thus I am at a loss where to begin. This is what frightens me most.