America’s Coat of Arms: The Car

America's Coat of Arms: The Car

Have you ever been simply proud to be an American? You don’t need to dig deeply to learn about oppression and denial of rights by the government in other countries.  America has always been viewed as a place where a person can choose his own path through the many rights guaranteed to us all by our government. Within our laws, we as Americans have freedom of choice. We can express ourselves in ways that we see fit, and there are many mediums through which we can carry out the expression of who we really are and who we want to be. Our material possessions, like homes, clothes, and even cellphones or lack thereof, serve as outward representatives of who we feel we are. In this, it is our cars that undoubtedly define our culture and freedom as Americans.

When you think of any particular decade in America, you realize that no image better depicts the time than the cars of the era. For example, if one thinks of the fifties, you think of the space race, prosperity, and rock’n’roll. All of these things translated directly into the car world in the form of rocket-style taillights, huge tailfins, hot rods, and luxurious land-barges. These themes and styling cues define the decade in people’s minds, as best illustrated by the movie “Grease.” The main character, Danny Zuko, is in a gang called the T-Birds, which was named after the nickname of one of the most famous cars of that era, the Ford Thunderbird. A key point in the story is a race down Thunder Road between Danny and his rival in their cars. One of the larger musical numbers in the movie is centered on the coolness, power, and speed of Greased Lightning, Danny’s dream car. This shows how each decade is represented by its cars.

Many of us have heard our grandparents talk about how the quality of cars, houses, and everything else used to be better “back in those days.” The cars that they grew up with represent the time period, but because they represent the time, they are associated with all things that come from that era including the people. Each generation has its own music, style of clothing, entertainment, and cars. For example, the nineties brought us new music in the form of Nirvana, Britney Spears, and others. It also brought us Johnny Depp and Will Smith as famous actors, brightly colored Polo suits and shirts, and the modern car. Because most of the people who grew up in the nineties are now adults, most of the influence on popular culture is by those adults, and it’s obvious. Movies from the nineties are being rereleased, and our cars are starting to look like the edgy concepts designed in the nineties. The influence is in full swing, and we can see it just by looking in a car magazine. Sporty two-door off-roaders are making a resurgence, just like the Jeep did roughly twenty years ago. It doesn’t take a long look at past history to see it in today’s culture and how each generation defined its cars.

Although cars offer us freedom whenever we are around them, there is one time in our lives when they offer a freedom unlike any other that we will experience ever again. Our first cars are the first step in our independence from our parents and our independence from others altogether. Most of us first have this freedom in high school, and at such a pivotal point in our lives, there are few things that could possibly mean more than the freedom offered to us by our cars. One may finally walk through the door of their home, step into their car, and make a choice to go somewhere, when they get there, how they get there, and when they leave. For example, Carbuzz editor Jacob Joseph offers us some insight into his experience with his first car, saying “I had the ability to travel, but at night there was nowhere to go when you aren’t old enough to get in to the places where things are happening. Not having a destination didn’t matter though, the car was freedom, and just being in the car and out of my parents’ house was a feeling second to none.” Cars give us as teenagers what we feel to be the ultimate load lifted from our shoulders, and bring us into a new life.

Another freedom we acquire through our cars is another facet of the freedom of expression we all have. Some of us choose to exercise our freedom of expression in our dress, religion, and speech. However, we can only express one feeling with each of those things. With our cars, we can express so much more. We can express who we are, rather than what we feel, and that is a very special and unique freedom. It has been said by more than one autojournalist that our cars serve as an outward definition and representation of who we are, and this is true.

Equally as important, cars are a type of freedom that can only be felt in a car. We as Americans enjoy many freedoms, but none is greater than the freedom to go where we please. As shown in Chuck Berry’s 1964 his single, “No Particular Place To Go,” many of us use our cars to simply move around. In the previously mentioned song, a story is told of a couple taking a romantic ride around town. This portrays a very common situation of a couple going out on a date by simply driving and enjoying the evening through the automobile. This shows how we can all enjoy the freedom that is offered to us by the car, and that we can all use the freedom it gives us.

In conclusion, there truly is nothing else that we as Americans can have in our lives that is more of a freedom than the automobile. It defines us, our generation, where we live, how we live, and who we truly are. Nothing can replace what the car has given us, and we must preserve what it means to us. Therefore, cars are an integral part of the freedom and culture of America.