Photographs from the turn of the 19th century record central Indiana’s vibrant interurban railway and trolley system. We were then the eighth-largest state in the U.S. (with California at 21st on the list and Florida, No. 32, at about 20 percent of the Hoosier population). Folks needed to move around. A century later, folks still need to move around. The state has grown by nearly three times (California and Florida have done well, too). But the tracks are mostly gone, buried under greasy layers of asphalt. In their place rise dedicated bus, bicycle and automobile lanes. Some call for the ease, safety and environmental benefits of public transportation by train. Others doubt the claims preferring the relative freedom of cars.
Is it human nature to seek the new and improved and then, with the passage of time, come to romanticize the halcyon days gone by? Our collective public and private space has been filled with rightful voices holding up the good work of the late Sen. Richard Lugar. Add this one to the chorus. Still, there was a time, not that long ago, when Lugar was defeated in a primary of his own political brethren. Alas, some of those who urged his defeat now post photos proclaiming their undying admiration.
What is it that brings us to tire of, or even revile, the things that we love? We destroy them only to one day long for them being returned to us. We build up. We extinguish. We build up, again. Countless institutions, individuals, ideas, politicians and marriages suffer the cyclical fate. Have they betrayed us, or have we betrayed them?
Should we have kept the trains running, despite their shortcomings? Or, was it time to pave a new direction?