Privatizing the 4th of July


My family and I went to see 4th of July fireworks in a Southern town north of Charlotte. The only available fireworks were at a country club.  Members of the club had their own roped-off area and the hoi polloi were invited to park on a nearby main road and hike onto the rest of the golf course.  About 5,000 cars were parked on the main road, a mile up and down, and the walk with small children was a challenge.  We chose to park near the main entrance to the club.  There was a community of over $1MM brick houses associated with the club.  Not all residents are members.  Membership in the club starts with a down payment of around $50,000 and then monthly payments around $700.  I saw a non-member resident ask to sit in the club members area, something she had done in previous years, and she was turned away.  This community thus comprises both haves and have-nots, first class and business class.  The rest of us were in coach.  Parking my car I was close to but not blocking one resident’s driveway.  He came out and asked us to move, pretexting visitors soon to come.  After the fireworks were over, we returned and found his house unlit and unoccupied.

Growing up in New England I have a memory, perhaps false, that there were always town-sponsored fireworks in some area big enough to accommodate all of the town. North of Charlotte, where there is a large lake, there is almost no public space other than shopping malls.  The opening of a small beach was a big deal, with nearby residents loudly hand-wringing over the accompanying parking problems.  The beach had about 70 parking spaces. Consistently 700 come to bathe.  Even the highway, route 77, has been privatized, with a fast lane under construction for those that can afford to pay per use.

North Carolina is a state which is notable for the thorough inadequacy of its public transportation, its low teacher pay and disdain for public education, and the refusal Federal Medicaid funds.  The state, which just elected a Democratic governor by a narrow margin, has seen its Republican-dominated legislature systematically strip the governor of his powers and cut funds to his employees.  It’s quite something.

As a state on the losing side of what has been called, down here (not so sure if by the current generation, but surely the prior one), the War Between The States, I wonder if the lack of municipal attention paid to the 4th of July has strong historical roots in that conflict.  There is some evidence in favor of this interpretation.  So despite the otherwise rah-rah nature of Southern conservatives regarding the US of A and all of that, I wonder if institutionally the state is still driven by those older grievances, in a completely unconscious but still persistent way.

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