Problems no laughing matter


To The Editor:
Pick any category of infrastructure and not so long ago it seemed the superlative example was somewhere in the United States. The world’s tallest skyscraper? Between 1870 and 1998, an unbroken succession of 15 American office buildings held the world record for height. Now, America’s tallest, Chicago’s Sears Tower, has been topped by eight taller buildings, all of them in Asia. The Sears Tower was not just a tall building, it symbolized America’s leadership of the world. We never dreamed that our country and everything in it wouldn’t just keep getting bigger and better. We were the most optimistic people on earth, eager to try and eager to succeed.

Our bridges? A consummate test of engineering skill since antiquity, bridge-building was once an area of literally iconic American leadership. America moved into the world lead as early as 1849 with the 1,010-foot main span of the Wheeling Bridge in West Virginia. Thereafter, we retained the title with a series of 11 increasingly spectacular bridges — not the least the Brooklyn Bridge in the late 19th century and the Golden Gate in the mid-20th. This ended with the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge built in 1964. After that, America lost its world title and has now fallen to eighth overall. We are now surpassed by three bridges in China alone, and the world record for the longest bridge, since 1998, has been held by Japan.

Our trains? The United States held the record for fastest scheduled train service into the 1960s, when it was leapfrogged in quick succession by France and Japan. These nations continue to lead with average speeds about 50 percent faster than America’s fastest trains. The super fast and remarkable smooth magnetic levitation technology looks certain to replace many conventional express rail services in coming decades — the U.S. plans are hazy at best. The world’s fastest existing meglev service is in Shanghai and boasts a top speed of 268 miles an hour. Since America, at this time, doesn’t have the technology, China recently offered to build for us a 1,275-mile meglev service connecting Seattle with San Diego. We have used our superior technology to bomb other nations back into the stone age but we can’t build a railroad for ourselves?

Our dams? The baby-boom generation well remembers when the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River was the world’s tallest. It was topped in the 1960s by structures in Switzerland, Italy and Canada. As ranked by Wikipedia, we are now down to number 22. The Oroville, ranked since 1968 as America’s tallest, has fallen to number 15 worldwide. China alone boasts three taller dams than the Oroville, with six more under construction. The Grand Coulee Dam was once the world’s largest power station. Now, down to seventh in the world, it looks positively puny compared to China’s awe-inspiring Three Gorges complex, with four times the generating capacity.

Something is lost when a nation falls behind as we witness the loss of America’s former infrastructural glory. In earlier times America was surer of its leadership of the world community but now the United States seems to have lost its zest for life itself. Where is our own charismatic Caesar or Napoleon who will arise and step forth to lead our nation back to those glorious years when America ruled the world in engineering, innovation and technology? Could it be Romney, Obama, Gringrich or Santorum? Don’t make me laugh. Even now these four war horses, yielding to outside demands, are beating the drums for another catastrophic war in the Middle East.
Remember — in a democracy, we don’t always get what we voted for. This generation of Americans now have a rendezvous with destiny,” up or down? AMERICA AWAKE!

E.O. England,