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Posted on Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 10:41 a.m.

Trumping freedom: Can we put on the brakes?

By Wayne Baker

0716 TV Mr Goodwrench GM ad its your freedom.jpg

Editor's note: This post is part of a series by Dr. Baker on Our Values about core American values. Dr. Wayne Baker is traveling and welcomes back popular guest columnist Terry Gallagher.

Remember that commercial from a decade ago: “It’s not just your car; it’s your freedom”?

The General Motors slogan really tugged on those old stereotypes of hitting the open road with the wind in your hair and no clouds on the horizon.

One scholar says: “Cars have, from the very beginning, represented more than just transportation to most Americans. Cars have historically represented the freedom to go places, to make choices and to pursue many paths, perhaps even those leading to the unknown or the unexplored.”

That’s really hooey, isn’t it?
It’s a completely false view of freedom — when it comes with six years of payments, plus insurance, maintenance, storage and gas prices what they are.

But the idea that owning a car makes you free might be one of the reasons we see so many terrible drivers out there. For many people, being behind the wheel is their only chance to let it all hang out.

Your car one of the very few places you can smoke anymore, so why not throw butts out the window?

Last year in his exploration of “core values” in this column, Prof. Wayne Baker said “freedom and liberty are deeply held American values that every generation inherits and passes on to the next. But their meaning is reinterpreted again and again.”

This week I’m going to write about some core values that might trump freedom, values like driving safely and yielding courteously. Values like recognizing that you’re not the only driver on this freeway.

After all, it’s not your freedom.
It’s just a car.

What drives you nuts on the road?

Are you a car lover? Or a car hater?

Is it even possible to control selfish desires for the greater good?

Care to see the original 1989 GM Mr. Goodwrench TV advertisement? Courtesy of YouTube, commercials seem to have eternal life, although the video quality is a little grainy after more than two decades.

ABOUT TERRY GALLAGHER: Terry is the communications director of the Ecology Center of Ann Arbor. Terry worked for two decades in higher education before moving to the Ecology Center. He is an expert in using media to connect and strengthen diverse communities.



Thu, Jul 19, 2012 : 2:59 p.m.

I love to drive and always have - cars ARE freedom of movement. Personal transportation is right up there with air conditioning as one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century. It figures that only in crackpotty old Ann Arbor would some clueless commie goof try to disparage what 95% of Americans love.


Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 4:52 p.m.

Cars are miserable. Driving is miserable.


Thu, Jul 19, 2012 : 3:01 p.m.

You are miserable - why not go shoot yourself.