Wednesday, February 24, 2010
So Hummer has officially gone the way of the Edsel -- consigned now to the scrap heap of history. If you're like me, you thought the behemoth GM vehicle -- which seemed to inspire either reverence or bitter derision -- bit the dust several months ago, but apparently there was always a plan in the works to try to get a Chinese company to pick up the contract on the brand; that bid finally fell through, and so Hummer is no more.
I don't really have a dog in this fight because I don't drive a Hummer and wasn't planning on buying one, mostly for the same reason a lot of people weren't buying them anymore, enough to kill the entire line: For the most part they're completely impractical. Thing is, though, that's a personal choice reflecting my own preferences and lifestyle. In other words -- and I'll be brutally honest here -- I probably wouldn't have taken into account any of the traditional left-wing considerations like the effect an SUV has on the environment or America's overall dependence on foreign oil when deciding whether or not to buy a Hummer. If I could afford it and it worked for me, I might've bought one. That simple.
The Hummer brand died a fair death, meaning that the market spoke and it succumbed (although admittedly, GM should've dropped it earlier considering how much money it was losing for a carmaker that was subsisting on taxpayer money). That's capitalism. That's how the system is supposed to work. What's obnoxious, though, is the reaction of some of the commenters over at HuffPo to the news of Hummer's demise. I get that to many the brand has long stood as a symbol of selfish excess, a perennially reviled Texas-sized dragon that the left has always wanted to see slain for the supposed greater good. But the cries of "good riddance!" "thank the Lord these will no longer be made" and "score another win for the planet" as a response to the end of an American vehicle -- and one which wasn't nearly as terrible when it came to gas mileage as its rabid detractors made it out to be, particularly not the H3 -- seem slightly ridiculous.
Understand something: I'm all for being socially responsible, and I certainly get that there are times when people need to be pushed hard in the direction of doing what's good for the community, the country and the planet. But you can't always mandate responsible behavior. If you do that wantonly, you take away freedom. And while it's true that freedom should in theory come with responsibility, it's also true that not everyone is going to live up to his or her end of the bargain; the price of freedom, the ability to live your life how you see fit, is that you have to tolerate the guy you think is an arrogant, thoughtless jerk living life the way he wants. There are always gonna be selfish assholes. You can't legislate them out of existence.
There's of course an argument to be made, and a legitimate one, that we're all interconnected and therefore that big-ass Hummer does in fact have a direct impact on you, the country, the planet, etc. But exactly where is the sweet spot between what's right for me and what's right for the larger body -- in cases where the two notions are mutually exclusive -- and more to the point, who should have the power to make that official and binding ruling?
Not everyone could afford to, or even wanted to, drive a Hummer -- which means that there were never that many of them on the road to begin with (in spite of what hip-hop videos might've made it seem like). They were always more than balanced out by the millions and millions of people driving sensible, efficient Honda Accords, Chevy Cobalts or whatever. In other words, it seems like a really silly, purely symbolic and ultimately ineffectual thing to cheer for: the fact that the world is finally rid of the big bad Hummer.