Once upon a time, David Brooks venerated the suburbs. He's since changed his mind -- and inspired James Poulos to offer a partial defense.
Here's an excerpt:
There are still families in the suburbs. There are still churches. There are still local eateries and neighborhood hangouts. Some suburbs are masterplanned, but many aren't -- and the ones that are masterplanned often encourage more 'real community' than those that have sprawled out at random, without any logic or purpose, from one vast development to the next. The suburbs aren't perfect. No type of residential institution can perfect us. And none can ruin us -- only we can do that.
We restless Americans can ruin ourselves with our restlessness. But we know that we are never really at home in the world, at the same time that we know all of America, in the most important way, is our home. We Americans move constantly, and it is our relocation and our picking up and putting down stakes that gives the suburbs their true character. Some suburbs can be cold, anonymous, unfeeling -- like some cities and rural areas. I can attest however that some suburbs are among the warmest, most neighborly places on earth: even if you are a new arrival, even if you are a stranger, even if you are only passing through. Our suburbs reflect -- because they have created, and manage to maintain -- a brilliantly American way of pulling strangers constantly in motion out of the narrowness of their individual peregrinations and into a broader public life. If you do not like the suburbs, I suspect it is because you do not like the American propensity, deeper than even custom and habit, to move, and move, and move, and move.
But that is us. Even with families, that is us, although families -- as I can also attest -- inspire American hearts and minds to settle down in a way as consonant as possible with the flourishing of those families. No matter the depths of our love for our families, it is a democratic love that rightly places the destiny of our children above any aristocratic love for the soil. It's not that the two cannot be reconciled for long stretches of time. Assuredly they can, and assuredly there are plenty of places in America where we can find and achieve such lives in concert with the like-minded. But that is an option, not a rule of nature, and it is not at the heart of the American character. Precisely because we are not, in any Aristotelian sense, here to stay, our suburbs are.
Read the rest here.