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Dear Driver

Dear Driver,

Do you see that object dangling from my hand? No? I didn’t think you could. It’s difficult to take in much when you’re driving, isn’t it?

If you’d look closer, though, you’d see that it’s a hammer. Yes, lately I’ve taken to carrying one around. Like Nietzsche, I’m learning to philosophize with a hammer. And you can get a taste of my new philosophy; all you have to do is drive within a foot of me. Remember the last time you did that? when you took that sharp right in front of me? And I kicked your door? I hit it pretty hard, enough to split my toenail. But I don’t think you even noticed. You were so engrossed in your phone conversation. Remember? Or what about the time you nearly ran me and my daughter down as I pushed her in her stroller through the crosswalk? I don’t think you noticed that either. Well, next time you’ll notice.

If this sounds a little bit odd, well, I agree. But, you see, I don’t really have much of a choice in the matter. Just as your car deforms you into a machine, a mechanical monster – well, you know what old Fred said about fighting monsters, right? It can turn you into one. And let me tell you, walking these streets, with everyone distractedly driving, driving like monsters (not malicious monsters necessarily, mind you, but monsters nonetheless – the speed and the noise of your cars alone is monstrous, as is your lack of concern), let’s just say it’s taken its toll.

Do you understand? I don’t imagine you do. You probably don’t even know how many people you kill each year. How many was it last year? Over 40,000! For the second year in a row! That’s over a hundred and nine people a day on average – more fatalities every day than the 49 killed in the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando in 2016 combined with the 58 killed in the 2017 Las Vegas shooting. Each day. Each week hundreds of fresh corpses are lowered into the ground, or cremated, in this country, and thousands more mourn their loss, because of you.

But that’s not all. Even greater numbers suffer lifelong injuries from your careless violence. And those are only the immediate victims. Millions more suffer the effects of your pollution, and will continue to suffer – from not only cancer, heart disease asthma, and other ailments, but from hurricanes and typhoons, floods, wild fires, and droughts of increasing severity, not to mention the famines and wars that spring from these.

I know, though, that I can’t change your mind (about banning cars from cities, including the so-called autonomous car; about transforming the streets into parks, and turning the parking spots and lots into vegetable gardens). I know, dear driver, that you’re a hostage – that you can’t live without your car (i.e., that you can’t live without endless miles of pavement, pollution and death). I know it’s not your fault, that the carnage of the car is but one dimension of a general economy of violence. In other words, it’s a social problem – one that calls for a social solution, not myriad individual lifestyle tweaks. So what to do?

Lawmakers and policymakers will only enact reforms slowly, if at all. I recognize this, just as I’m aware that mere reforms will not suffice to stop the slaughter of not only people, and coral reefs, but the ecosystem itself. I know this, just as I know that it’s problematic to react with a hammer. It’s violent, yes, but I can’t help it. Like you, I wasn’t careful. And years of daily fighting monsters has finally turned me into one – though far less of one than you, dear driver. Seriously, what’s my pound or two of steel compared to your careening ton of it?

And here’s another question for you to ponder: did you know that the word monster is derived from the Latin verb monere, which means to warn? It’s true. So, you see, the monstrous wildfires and heatwaves sweeping the planet this summer are but warnings – that little time remains to act. So join me, won’t you? Pick up a hammer. Shut down every car, car dealership, and gas station you can. Join me in pounding the cars into pruning hooks, and into bicycles, and into public transportation systems. Imagine how wonderful it will be, how cool and clean the air will become once our hammers begin to rain down.

Yes, dear driver, I know. I know you’ll only laugh. I mean, how would you get to work? How would you pay your all important bills? And one must have priorities, right? Yes, dear driver, you and I both know that there’s a greater chance that you’ll run me over, and kill me in the street – accidentally of course.

 

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Elliot Sperber is a writer, attorney, and adjunct professor. He lives in New York City and can be reached at elliot.sperber@gmail.com and on twitter @elliot_sperber

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