Friday, May 16, 2008

Reading Paulville

"The goal of it to establish gated communities containing 100% Ron Paul supporters and or people that live by the ideals of freedom and liberty."

THUS BEGINS THE FIRST paragraph of, the official Website of a planned community in West Texas, devoted to the ideals and values of beleaguered congressman Ron Paul. From its bizarre vision to its contradictory mission statement to its typo five lines in ("it" as opposed to "is"), Paulville's site remains of the most bizarre projects around.

Though there are many aspects of the planned community that deserve attention, the most glaring is the tension between the idea of a "gated community" and "the ideals of freedom and liberty." Described by many as a Libertarian, Paul is a man who has made his career a devotion to the rhetoric of removing obstacles, limiting restrictions, and opening the playing field. He opposes gun control, the Patriot Act, the so-called "war on drugs," even the notion of the federal reserve. At their core, Libertarians avow the importance of freedom, and yet, in one of the most expansive, boundless areas of the country (West Texas), this group of freedom-seeking, wall-crashing, border-bashing Paulines want to erect a gated community--perhaps the most salient symbol of community exclusion, segregation, protection, and circumspection.

Planned communities are nothing new, but niche gated housing developments founded on conservative principles never really carry the zip of the more liberal Utopian communes. Take, for example, Hiddenbrooke, a wacky golf course community outside of San Francisco, where all of the houses resemble those found in paintings by the right-wing artist Thomas Kinkaide. Kinkaide, who has likened himself to Walt Disney, didn't design any of the houses, but both he and the developers of this housing project have admitted a desire to recreate the sterilized fairytale aura invoked by the paintings.

Both The Village at Hiddenbrooke and Paulville reveal a desperation to live in this kind of fairytale community--one secluded from the realities and complexities of contemporary life. This need, based more on nostalgia and invention than reality, is part of a larger right-wing belief that integration, progression, evolution, and interaction weaken communities and dilute daily life. Such projects suggest not a move forward but a move back, a retreat from the problems and possibilities of the present and future.

On a more positive note, I wonder what planned communities might be like if based on the ideals of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Bill Richardson, and Dennis Kucinich. Send your ideas on these communities to The Weekly Rader, and we'll run the best in a future post.

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