Under Your Own Power [From BA 42-400]

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"Let’s show them what a world built on people, not cars, can look like. Automobiles were never the problem in the first place; our love of them was."

from BA 42-400

You have been promised that you will not have to get there under your own power. The automotive industry has been bailed out. The jobs lost when corporate monsters collapse will be devastating, no doubt, but what business do we have continuing to buttress a failing system?

It is a sign that change has come to our world and yet our nation is opposing it and fighting to keep things the same. What other message has been sent to us than that we are destined to be a car-hoarding, car-loving, car-dependent nation? Is it that we as a country are looking into the future? No. Do these administrative decisions tell us that we are ready to leave unsustainable practices in the past and forge into the next paradigm? They do not.

What it tells us is that if we are to get where we are going, we are going to have to do it ourselves. Perhaps that is the unintended message our President has sent. “We will not make this jump,” he has said, “and we cannot bridge this gap.” But we can, and we will, and it is us who must make the first move. If ever there was a time to trade in our habits, this is it! Our government is by the people, for the people, so let’s demonstrate what we want because our leaders are unwilling to lead. Let’s show them what a world built on people, not cars, can look like. Automobiles were never the problem in the first place; our love of them was.

Think of how Lincoln put it: “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew.” Indeed, we have broken free from greater tyrants than this.

We might hereby take up as ours the freedom we find in bicycling. With our bodies as our powerful fortresses, let the New American Revolution begin.

As to the existence of a bicycle army, The United States Government recognizes no such force. It recommends adherence to the accepted code of national behavior as officially sanctioned by its auxiliary forces because of course it does. So, sit back, and do nothing, if you so choose, and just watch the crazy race go on.

There will always be another choice, though, as well as the ability to vigorously exercise that most esteemed right, the freedom of the press. We, therefore, urge the powerful expression of freedom as compassion, and freely proclaim the power of that feeling. Feel free to press your own cider, your own handbill, your own un-manifesto of manifest destiny. And as long as freedom remains a pressing matter, be free from the pressure to accept the accepted (except the unexpected.) As usual, business interests continue to free men and women from the use of common sense, so in the interest of common sense, we urge all free men and women to discontinue the use of business as usual.

There is no solidarity to be found in riding. The Constitution never once mentions bicycling, as the machine was yet to be invented when our forepeople signed their binding document. But even if it had, everyone is yet still entitled under the premises of our free country to do as they wish and get there how they want. This includes driving, and driving often, even driving unnecessarily large vehicles. You are free to do just that. You are free to do whatever. This includes never once having to ride a bicycle. This includes flying personal aircraft. This includes riding in long, long limousines. This includes walking, and running, and cartwheeling, and sledding, and pogosticking. Never forget you are free to do these things. But, we would be wise to remember, as Lincoln put it so austerely, that we are now “engaged in...testing whether [our] nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.” In the end, we have no laws to govern what we must do to make the land a more sustainable place in which to live. That, we daresay, is for every one of us to decide in the depths of our person as Americans and citizens of this waning world.

Even if, like Bartleby, you’d prefer not to, we hope that wherever you are, wherever you ride, you’ll be willing to admit when you’re in the wrong on the roads. Yes, that includes us. Even you. Even me. Noting to oneself that there are wiser, calmer, more graceful ways to move and behave may in itself be the grandest, most important note/update/correction of all. 

Evan P. Schneider