Monday, December 4, 2006
If one wants to see the future of America –- or at least one conception of it, for better or worse –- one should visit Pahrump, Nevada, the appropriately named town northwest of Las Vegas, which is being transformed from a dusty outpost to a booming exurb. When I last drove through Pahrump, it seemed one colossal construction site of strip malls, endless asphalt parking lots, sprawling housing plots, and six-lane highways seemingly in the middle of nowhere. While many critics and academicians see a “return to the city” as America’s future, I suspect that it’s even money that our future will more often look like Pahrump.
And what do the citizens of Pahrump want? The town recently passed an "English Language and Patriot Reaffirmation Ordinance" that, among other things, makes it unlawful to display a foreign flag by itself, even on private property. Some estimate that about 15 percent of Pahrump’s residents are Latinos. Although the ordinance was watered down at the last minute to exclude some of the more egregious provisions, apparently some believe that it prohibits the speaking of Spanish in public places. (It doesn’t quite do that.)
Although I think that the creation of a bi-lingual or multi-lingual society would be a divisive thing for America, laws such as those of Pahrump are still very disturbing. (One can find plenty of similar examples.) Does the isolating, sprawling land use of such exurbs encourage distrust, or do people who distrust tend to move to such exurbs?