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Death of the Hummer


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Rejoice, The Hummer Is Dead

It might be the end of the world's most phallically sad SUV. But has the damage been done?

By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The late Rev. Jerry Falwell? He was exactly like a Hummer H2. Oh yes he was. Bloated, arrogant, offensive to millions and deeply wrong in a thousand ways and yet blindly worshipped by a shockingly large and happily uninformed throng of devout minions for no other reason than he was, well, bloated, arrogant and wrong.

Is that too harsh? Lacking in prudent subtlety? I'm completely OK with that.

See, it is time for much rejoicing. It is time for an upraising of hands and a hallelujah and a praise be to the heavens despite how, of course, the heavens don't really exist.

No, not for the death of Falwell, for that would be pointless and in poor taste and besides, the ever-acerbic Christopher Hitchens did it much better over at Slate. And as I pointed out last week, Falwell's own collection of (in)famous quotes do a far better job of revealing the man's true nature and worth to humanity than any sort of carefully articulated, cheerful celebration of his demise ever could.

No, this minor offering of joy is for the imminent and forthcoming death of the Hummer H2 itself. Oh my yes.

See, sales of this particular model -- perhaps the most idiotic consumer vehicle ever produced in your lifetime -- are down. Way down, a full 27 percent from last year alone, which was already way down 22 percent from the year prior, with sales continuing to plummet as fast as gas prices are rising and Bush's war is raging and Americans are generally snapping awake to the fact that dumping well over 100 bucks to fill the tank of this monster abomination every other day might not be the best way to waste their kid's college fund.

Hence, it's heavily rumored that GM will soon kill the model entirely, which is already being supplanted by a slew of smaller, less disgusting H2 offspring like the H3 and the H3 pickup and the H3 whatever-the-hell-else-they-can-think-of to milk this horrible idea until it's deader than Dick Cheney's black soul at a pagan tree festival.

Is this not good news? Is this not a sign that times, at long last, might be changing for the better, even just a little? Wait, don't answer just yet.

First, a flashback. Do you remember the time, that dark and skanky period of bleakness way back in, say, 2003, when gas was (relatively) cheap and Bush's war was still being spun as some sort of righteous, WMD-justified love-in and the dour, global-warming-is-a-liberal-hoax Republicans controlled the sour American universe? It was a time when GM dealers couldn't sell the giant hunk of laughable penis compensation known as the Hummer H2 -- which was nominated that very year for North American Truck of the Year -- fast enough.

GM even went so far as to build ridiculous, theme park-like Hummer dealerships and to contract with special plants in Indiana to crank out America's ugliest, most dangerous, least environmentally friendly monster truck, and celebs and rappers and pro athletes and supermodels and senators and glitz wannabes of every ilk everywhere couldn't waste 50 grand on the horribly built, lunkish hunk of karmic contempt fast enough. Oh what a time it was.

Fast forward to right now. The Republican party is grumbling on the sidelines, kicked to the curb by their own impressive corruption and warmongering and excessive kowtowing to the extreme religious right. America feels slightly more wary, awake, a tad more environmentally aware, slightly more in touch with something resembling its soul. And the H2 -- essentially the emblem of all that is/was wrong with Bush's America -- the bloat, the recklessness, the false machismo and unchecked waste and bigger-is-better senselessness -- might very well end production entirely. Something, at long last, seem to be changing for the better.

Or is it?

See, there's this snag (isn't there always?): Because despite the H2's apparent demise, despite $4 gallons of gas, despite a huge increase in sales of hybrids and the move toward alternative energy and despite all the talk of the "greening" of America, sales of giant SUVs seem to be surging once again, just this year, after many months of slumping sales.

What the hell is going on? Is it because, like Dick Cheney, like Karl Rove, like Jerry Falwell, like reality TV, the dumb-as-lead Hummer H2 has had its nasty, permanent effect? Has the giant SUV now become so mainstream, so deeply tattooed into the pasty, overweight flesh of American culture that it doesn't even really matter that the H2 is on its way out, essentially turning into a sad, silly cultural footnote? Do you already know the answer?

Perhaps it is simply the way of the culture, the evolution of a very bad idea, made slightly more palatable through slick, careful marketing. Today, manufacturers are simply redesigning and rebranding their luxobarges as crossover vehicles, offering slightly improved handling and slightly improved fuel economy and not at all improved emissions and slightly less chance of flaming rollover death at the slightest need for emergency handling at any speed over about 20 mph, and hence many Americans somehow think that buying the newer, sleeker three-ton Chevy Suburban with 23 cup holders instead of the 2005 model with only 14 must be, you know, a healthy improvement.

Or perhaps it's a remnant of the careless Boomer worldview, that all-American, use-it-before-it's-gone attitude that spins on an axis of a truly horrible irony: The more we learn of our desperate environmental straits, the more we learn of dwindling oil reserves and the more we learn that our shiny happy United States might not be the responsible, beneficent global superpower we once dreamed it was, the more we say "screw it" and grab onto the last gasp of pleasurable excess and vice no matter the future repercussions, telling ourselves we might as well enjoy that stupid, chromed-out three-ton GMC Yukon Denali before the oil runs out and the terrorists eat my babies and the damn liberals change the laws and make us all drive Smart cars to the Tofu Hut in order to turn us all gay. Sound familiar?

But no matter how you slice it, the ongoing SUV phenom is, in its way, one of our most fascinating cultural studies, a neat -- if rather depressing -- measure of American attitudes.

The truth is, the comically irresponsible H2 represented and encapsulated its brutal -- though mercifully brief -- time period in Bush's America perfectly. And now perhaps we are simply moving on to the next phase, slightly improved, a tad more aware, but somehow remaining completely unfazed by $120 tanks of gas and ongoing pollution and the rather obvious idea that, despite the slick marketing hype, nothing significant has really changed at all.

Bottom line: You can hope for the big shifts. You can hope for some sort of grand awakening, some sort of removal of the tumor and a relief from the pain of excess waste and abuse and happy ignorance.

But, of course, what you get instead is, well, a nice drive to the megamall in a shiny 2008 Escalade for a couple of aspirin and some compact fluorescent lightbulbs and a copy of "An Inconvenient Truth" on DVD. Ain't that America.

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whew... you mean THAT hummer!

awesome... game on!

Ha! Had me scared for a second too!

we might as well enjoy that stupid, chromed-out three-ton GMC Yukon Denali before the oil runs out and the terrorists eat my babies and the damn liberals change the laws and make us all drive Smart cars to the Tofu Hut in order to turn us all gay.

Really liked that article, especially the above quote. I really hate SUV's and all that they represent...with full knowledge, that to some degree there are people out there who really need big trucks for work etc. Unfortuanately 95% of them are completely uneccesary...

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Alot of things in this world are unnecessary but we have them anyhow. Shall we start making a list?People own big vehicles for many reasons and yes some people that have them don't need them. I don't think getting rid of SUV's will solve world problems though.

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Yes I agree but not all SUV's are the same. The giant Durangos and Yukon and Escalades are a bit different than the Rav4 or the Jeep liberty. Yes they are all SUV's and they probably all drink more gas than those stupid micro machine smart cars but they are different.

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and i agree with ya kev, my bro's roommate has a new Jeep Patriot with a 4 cylinder. good, roomy and versatile without the 5.7L gas guzzling ozone depleting side effects. Its the Hummers, Escalades, Explorers et al. that i'd like to see gone. Especially in the city when they only get stop/start use to the friggin grocery store.

Is it me or are the majority of the drivers of these giants mostly middle aged women? Useless.

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Unnecessary is the exact word I use to describe those things. I don’t get it… last time I checked, there were no trenches on the way to soccer practice.

Awhile back I was shopping and there was a Hummer idling in the parking lot. I waited in line for about 20 minutes while this annoying woman complained that she was over charged $0.59 on an article of clothing. Switched lines, paid, left and noticed that dame thing was STILL idling! Couldn't believe it. So I begged Jay to wait until the owner came out so I could say something. Sure enough, it was that annoying woman who was complaining about the $0.59!!! I politely said, "Excuse me, miss! Hi! How are you? Great... Listen, it's bad enough that you own a Hummer, but the fact that you've left it idling for the past 40 minutes is beyond ignorance!" You know what her response was? "My kids are in the car!" Didn't even know how to respond to that! After I picked my jaw back up from the ground I told her that if she cared about her kids, perhaps she should start thinking about their future environment. (I didn’t even get into the fact that there were little ones in that car unsupervised that whole time!) She told me I was just jealous and that I should go to school. HAHA... some people, eh?

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i think the middle aged women driving SUV thing is about women not wanting to be "soccer moms" and drive minivans. but they still need something big enough to handle all the soccer and hockey shit their kids have.

honesty people...it's a wonderful thing!

and good for you mir for saying something. jesus...the 59 cents she saved was sure worth it eh....who cares about the few dollars your car went through while you were haggling. jeeeeez

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I love my Hummer, and its was better on gas then my landrover was, or my jeep tj or grandcheroke

The creature of whom I write is none other than the Dreaded Trustafarian, also known affectionately as the Trustie or by the scientific tag Deadheadphish digginmyself wannabefreeus horiblus.

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I'm looking forward to a time where the issue will be the materials used to make the car. Yeah gas prices are an issue and so are emissions, but look at the steel, the plastic, the freon substitute. That consumption is far harsher than the emission from the exhausts.

I also hypocritically will own the biggest car I can drive with an efficient engine. I really miss my huge cars. I drive a big car and am way more likely to speed in that one than a bigger car, and worse yet a smaller car than my Cutlass lends me to zip around town. Never really all the time fast, but driving seems to be less enjoyable and I am often preoccupied with timeliness when I'm not sitting in a sofa. Much like a schooldesk working to a destination and not going for a nice drive.

So I expect to hear about it if I ever have a big car cause I probably won't have one for awhile. I'll probably get a van instead. [color:purple]Way more room for solar panels, tent top, and unicorns.

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