extremes in America

We are experiencing two extreme ends of American life.  A few days ago, we stayed with a black family in a poverty stricken and crime-ridden black community in South Shore, in Chicago; and now we are staying at a friend’s rented house in Shelter Island where American’s super-riches spend their summers and weekends. Today, I rode on an infamous boat – formerly owned by Bernie Madoff, the criminal who committed the biggest financial fraud in America. A wealthy friend of a friend bought the boat, knowing its value and history, at an auction.

This is just America -full of extremes.

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2 thoughts on “extremes in America

  1. Oh, good, I just found your blog and I will be reading it. I am an old man trying to learn everything I can about China. Of the hundred or so books I’ve read about China in the last few months your memoir was one of the best. Along with Wild Swans, Serve the People, Red Dust, The Corpse Walkers, and The Gang of One. Those were just the best, the most readable. I’ve also read a lot of fiction and essays from China’s past (Lu Xun’s stories and early essays especially good, and the Dream of the Red Chamber, of course; and The Golden Lotus.) Anyway, I would love to find some well-written memoirs and/or fiction about the last 25 years. Can you recommend anything? thanks, a new fan, Luke Lea

  2. There are extremes and then there are extremes. It is all a matter of degree. Things are becoming more unequal in America for economic reasons that decrease the demand for labor relative to capital (e.g., trade and new labor saving technologies) or else increase the supply of labor relative to demand (e.g. mass immigration). In addition America has become a multi-racial, multi-ethnic society, not all of which perform equally well in a market economy. We have been wrestling with all these problems. In the past it was considered politically correct to attribute these differences to discrimination. But as time goes on it is becoming clearer that cultural and biological factors are probably more important. For example, single-parent households and out-of-wedlock children have become the norm among certain groups. This is almost a guarantee of below average income and parental care.

    Even so our worse off minorities are better off, on average, than their counterparts from other parts of the world. We have welfare programs that greatly ameliorate these disparities. Plus we have an open political system that may address these issues in the future as it has in the past. Certain swings in the pendulum are a regular feature of American history. Lastly, we have the example of Lincoln and his Gettysburg Address, and of the wonderful writings of our Founding Fathers. To say nothing of the traditions of the Hebrew Bible and the Hebraic conception of God, upon which the idea of human equality is based. See the opening sentences of The Declaration of Independence for example. The forces of greed and selfishness are not absent from American society of course, nor are we without our share of sociopaths. But this is true of all societies. What we do have is a system that is capable of peaceful reform.

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