I’m a structural engineer.
Which is a fairly anonymous profession. Most of the time. Most of the time when I say I’m a structural engineer, people say, “oh, that’s cute” or “did you get milk while you were out?” But every once in a while I’ll turn on the TV and somebody will be throwing around the words “structural engineer” or a friend will call and say, “Hey, one of your kind is on TV.”
That’s when I know something bad has happened. When everybody knows what a structural engineer is and we’re almost 10% as popular as Lindsay Lohan. In the days following 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina and now the Minneapolis bridge collapse we were and are being interviewed left and right all over the TV. Which is dismaying, honestly. Not because I don’t get interviewed myself, but because I prefer the anonymous toiling away that my chosen profession provides me. I know that if I remain fairly anonymous, we’ve all done our jobs and our structures are safe. And if we’re on TV, either we’ve all been pulled over for drinking and driving or a major structure has come down somewhere.
Let me ask you a question. Between Hurrican Katrina, the New York Pipeline explosion, and the Minneapolis bridge collapse, do you see a pattern? I don’t design levees or pipelines or bridges (I strictly design buildings and the occasional wall) but I see a pattern. America is starting to fall apart. Structurally. I realize I’m joining a rising chorus of opinion here, but if our government can’t keep our public bridges and thoroughfares and cities safe from catastrophe borne from neglect, are they doing their jobs? Should I really have to cross my fingers every time I cross over I-25 on Speer, or worse, under that bridge, knowing that it has exposed reinforcing steel at its edges? Should we all have to worry about the condition of pipelines and electrical lines and who knows what else running beneath our cities?
Here’s what I think. Not that you asked, but you’re still reading, so here goes. And this idea was initially proposed to me by my friend Duke, so I have to give him credit. I think America needs to pull back home all its resources from all over the globe and concentrate on America. We’ve helped everybody else for so long that maybe it’s time for them to help themselves while we do the same. Get our boys and girls out of Iraq and everywhere else and bring ‘em home and let’s put those people and the money associated with them to work on America. Replacing decrepit bridges, checking pipelines for leaks, building bigger and better levees (or moving New Orleans to higher ground, which, honestly, is a better solution IMO). It can be done. And we all know that the money we’re spending in Iraq – money that we can’t always seem to account for – will go a long way to fixing up OUR country. Where WE live. Sure, people in other places will be pissed at us, but that’s just too bad. We’ve helped the rest of the world practically since we’ve been around and it’s time for a little tough love. Let them figure it out! Plus, everybody needs a little Me Time now and again. It’s America’s Me Time. Let’s come back home, make a pot of coffee, put on our gardening gloves, and go out into our own garden and tend to it for a while. And, honestly, if America has a little Me Time, we’ll come back stronger and more influential than ever. I imagine nothing’s more appetizing to an angry terrorist dude in a cave than an America that’s falling apart on its own. And whose children are over in their neighborhood, hopelessly trying to affect “democracy.” It’s a little like hockey, in that America should play a “Stay Home” defense and keep both of their defensemen back around the blue line instead of having wandering defensemen who get caught down low in the offensive zone when the puck is turned over and the other team has a breakaway going the other way. You know? Sure you do! You’re all hockey fans!
You know what else? You show me a presidential candidate, from either party, who runs on the “America: Me Time” platform and I’ll show you our next president. I’ll vote for that person. And there are millions other like me. Not structural engineers – I don’t think we number in the millions – but people who think we should concentrate on our country for a while. Before we all fall into the river.