Burning bridges, signs of the times

I remember when the wrecking ball took down the old Isle High School back in the late 1990s. Editor Jim Baden took the pictures and developed them in the dark room of the Messenger.

It made me a little sad to see the old building fall, but this makes me sadder: The nearest town to my house didn’t demolish its old high school, which is now one of the biggest eyesores I’ve ever seen.
I live in an old house that I’ve been advised to tear down, but I won’t do it. It angers me that we make buildings here in America to last 30 or 50 years instead of hundreds or thousands.
Still, there’s a time for every purpose under heaven, as Solomon said — a time to build, a time to restore, and a time to hire a wrecking ball to make a clean break with the past.
On the drive to work last week I passed three signs that were faded, peeling or falling down. One was for a business long defunct; two were for businesses still in operation.
I understand that times are hard, but if I owned those businesses, I’d fire up my trusty McCulloch and cut ’em off at the ankles.
My guess is that the average passerby sees those signs and thinks the business has gone under, or if it’s still in operation, it’s not worth a stop. No sign at all is a better advertisement.
Faded and falling signs may be signs of the times — not just of our current economic doldrums, but of a bigger trend indicating a scarier reality.
Our American society also seems to be faded, peeling or falling down. We’re losing the ability to make products worth buying, and all that’s left is our ability to package, sell and serve (and if you’ve been to McDonald’s lately, even that’s a stretch).
As appearances cease to matter, what they used to represent is lost as well. Could my son’s torn jeans (like mine in the 70s) be a symbol of a rending of the social fabric? Do the masses who dress like crap (I plead guilty) feel like crap on the inside and contribute more crap to a crappy society?
Appearances can be a matter of life-and-death. Take the I-35 Bridge, for example, or closer to home, the Malone Island Bridge in Isle.
If it looks like crap, it may be crap. A falling sign or an old school probably won’t kill someone without warning, but a bridge just might.
As Isle’s city engineer said a few weeks ago, that bridge is probably not going to fall down when nobody’s on it. The council is hoping for the best, and who can blame them? Isle’s taxes are the highest of any town in the area, thanks to sewer projects, streetlights and sidewalks.
Bridges are another sign of the times. Locally and across the nation, we’re so anti-tax that we’ll take huge risks for our short-term gain — grandkids be damned.
Maybe our American ingenuity will win in the end, as it always has. We may not be able to make much worth buying, but we still invent things and lead the world in art and entertainment.
But fun won’t feed us forever if other nations build a future worth preserving.

Brett Larson is the editor of the Messenger.

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