There is no road ahead for America without the roadways of America: the literal highways that form our Interstate Highway System. Those highways are the great achievement of President Eisenhower and a chance for our current president to achieve greatness in his own right. Repairing those highways would be a stroke of genius by President Trump.
These highways run longer than any river or railroad. They traverse the country with almost twice the mileage of the circumference of the earth—and they will collapse into the earth, bigger than the biggest sinkhole in history, unless we undertake one of the biggest military missions in history.
This is a military mission because the Interstate Highway System is the result of Eisenhower’s insistence on defending the nation from all enemies, foreign and domestic. It was then, and is now, an inseparable part of our personal freedom and our national independence; because a country that does not know itself cannot begin to protect itself, not when it allows that which connects the country to secede from the States through neglect and mismanagement. The preservation of that highway system echoes not from the road, but from the rostrum, where President Trump said: “We will build new roads, and highways, and bridges, and airports, and tunnels, and railways all across our wonderful nation.”
Those roads are wonderful things. They never cease to attract the attention of adventurers even after the adventure ceases; as the roads do cease, when they merge elsewhere or end where there is nowhere else to go, while the journey continues—the cause endures on the page and on the stage—introducing us to characters as romantic as any riverboat captain and as solemn as any solitary man.
The story thrives on the radio, where the needle on the AM dial receives the voice of a journeyman of the airwaves; the DJ and raconteur who, between changing records and breaking for a word from his sponsors, tells hour-long tales that last for many more hours, in the hearts and minds of listeners, as the miles pass and the hours go by.
This fabulist has no script, which makes his performance all the more impressive, since there is an epic quality to the way he talks. He is a monologist who uses his studio as a campfire, making the radio panel glow wherever the signal reaches a driver; wherever that signal fills the interior of a car with the sound of everyone’s favorite uncle, of the narrator of a series of stories about family trips gone awry and holidays gone haywire, where the host’s “old man” does battle with a variety of foes, from a blasted basement furnace to a pack of mongrel dogs.
His talk entertains us, while talk radio engages us. Both are products of the highway, because there is no Rush (Limbaugh) without rush hour. There is no talk, period, without that ribbon of highway and that endless skyway. This land is not your land—this land is not our land—without the Interstate Highway System that was made for you and me.
This land is no land, then, for scenes about ingénues and ennui. Nor is it the place for an actress who wants to feel the rhythm of the fast lane and ride the rapids of the freeway. Not unless she plans to play a soldier or spy who races through the streets of Baghdad or Basra, where she dodges rocket-propelled grenades and sniper fire, while she drives from some pockmarked shell of an apartment building to a safe house on the outskirts of town. Not unless her car has the shocks of a monster truck, because our highways can inflict as much damage as any improvised explosive device.
President Eisenhower would not recognize these highways, were he alive today, because he would sooner diagnose himself with battle fatigue than accept this attack on his legacy. He would not be wrong to think so, given the transformation of America from the landscape of the victor into the homeland of the vanquished.
This assault from within threatens our physical safety and our fiscal solvency. It forces drivers to turn around, while local businesses see no turnaround in sight. It proves the obvious; that a nation cannot be great if its infrastructure is in gruesome shape; that an external blight can worsen into an economic burden; that an internal crisis can become a source of international condemnation.
We ruin the greatness of America when we run roughshod over the legends of America. When we turn the dream of the open road into a nightmare of road closures and foreclosure signs. When the freedom to drive anywhere yields to the fear of never leaving our driveways. We become, in a way, less American.
The hope of a better road ahead must sustain us, provided we uphold the promise to restore our most important roads. Those roads are the lifeblood of the last best hope of earth. They link the beauty of America with the bounty of America, from sea to shining sea.
It would be a disgrace to let those roads deteriorate further. It is a disgrace to have permitted the slow undoing of those roads, year after year, until all the hopes of future years depend on what we do this year.
Good, in this respect, is not good enough. Not when the price of greatness is responsibility. Not when it is our responsibility to make America great again.