America’s Real Bubble

Earlier today I came across this fascinating article located at the American Scholar (actually I’m not so intellectually driven that I found this on my own; I got there through one of my favorite blogs, the Daily Dish by Andrew Sullivan.).

But back to the article.  The author I believe captures what I have long believed about the general suburban mindset (although he says “middle class” where I would’ve said “suburbanite”):

No one in the middle class imagines they could die at any minute. The middle-class idea is quite the reverse: that the world can be controlled, risk eliminated, fate mastered. Grades, admissions, credentials—the steady, predictable climb up the ladder of professional success—that’s the idea. We’re going to live a long time, and the world is not going to take us by surprise.

Has there ever been another group of people, in all of human history, that’s possessed that kind of attitude? Of course, there are reasons it’s emerged when it has: our enormous modern life expectancy, our inconceivable prosperity, our overwhelming military power. But I wonder about its spiritual perils. 

For decades there has been scholarly and less-than-scholarly thought about the relative isolation of African-Americans from the social and economic world.  But rarely have I heard anything about the relative insulation of whites that has occurred with the move to the suburbs over the last 60 years.  Sure, the suburbs, as a group, are more diverse than they’ve ever been, but there’s even a certain homogeneity to its diversity — there are economically homogeneous suburbs, culturally or ethnically homogeneous suburbs, but usually not within the same suburb.

I would never paint with such a broad stroke to include all suburbanites in this group.  Many have certainly developed or maintained a larger world view that goes beyond cul-de-sacs and interchanges.  However, I’d argue that the suburban insulation that’s developed since World War II plays a large part in the larger cultural and political divide in our nation today.

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