This story could be subtitled, “The End of an Era.” You see, this month is an important anniversary for me; it was this month, some years ago that I got my engineering license. For about twenty years, I worked as a civil engineer. I did residential developments; shopping plazas, roads and highways; airports, and even a county courthouse, with my name on the plaque outside the front door. Now, this month, that phase of my life will end, when the state of Florida terminates my license.
Here’s why: with a professional license like mine, you have to do two things. One, I must keep up to date with what’s what in the occupation by taking classes regularly. This is “continuing education.” Second, you have to pay a renewal fee every two years, which ain’t cheap. For that matter, neither are the classes. The thing is money has been very tight for us for the last few years, since the economy had its meltdown and I lost my job. There’s been a true reduction in the size, scale and number of engineering projects out there; so many companies have gone out of business. Those that remain are much smaller, leaner, and able to select whom they want working for them.
As a result, there just aren’t many jobs out there. I made the decision to let my license go, and move on with my life; find a new career.
It got me thinking how we as a nation are scaling back on all such engineering projects. A few years back I was reading one of the civil engineering trade magazines about a new road project in Boston, Massachusetts, my old hometown. They were calling it the “Big Dig” and the article gave details on how they were going to improve the roads; no easy task in an old city like Boston.
Other than that project, we don’t really have any big projects and that seems such a pity. Looking over US history, I see where we once dreamed big and built big. We went to the moon, created the interstate road system, built Hoover Dam, the Panama Canal, the transcontinental railroad and so on. In every instance, we did these things not because they were easy or cheap. We did them because they challenged us to reach for something beyond our “comfort zone.”
It saddens me to think we’ve lost that drive, the thirst and the hunger to strive for something great. I have to wonder, is that the sign of a great nation in decline? At the height of its power, Rome created some of the greatest marvels of the ancient world. Then, Rome declined and finally fell. Are we destined to follow its example?
I’d like to think that’s not the case, but we do seem to be following the “Decline and Fall” path to perfection. We’ve more and more wealth concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, corruption, we no longer build big public projects, and yet we over-extend in other areas.
One of my father’s favorite sayings was that those who forget the past are doomed to relive it. Let’s hope we remember!
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
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