America is Las Vegas

The brilliant social critic Neil Postman argued that in every era there is one city that captures the American spirit and becomes its symbolic center. In the Revolutionary era, that city was Boston, with its cry for freedom. In the mid-nineteenth century, New York, a melting pot of diverse cultures, became the symbolic center. In the early twentieth century, Chicago embodied the spirit of entrepreneurial adventure with its railroads, steel mills, and cattle.

“Today,” Postman says, “we must look to the city of Las Vegas, Nevada, as a metaphor for our national spirit and aspiration, its symbol a thirty-foot-high cardboard picture of a slot machine and a chorus girl. For Las Vegas is a city entirely devoted to the idea of entertainment, and as such proclaims the spirit of a culture in which all public discourse increasingly takes the form of entertainment.”

Whether you agree or disagree with Postman, Vegas is key to understanding not only where we are as a culture, but also where the rest of America is headed. Like it or not, America is looking more like Vegas every day.


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