Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Continental Shift

A quick hop in the air later and I was at the gate in Copenhagen, only to find out that my flight to SFO was heavily overbooked. Without hesitation, I volunteered to take another flight via Chicago which would get me into San Francisco six hours later than originally planned. After all, considering that I flew home from Hong Kong only 36 hours ago, I was already quite beyond the whole time zone concept.

Ultimately, thanks to some last minute no shows, no volunteers were needed in the end. Yet, in return for my willingness to help out, SAS gave me a surprise upgrade to business class! Clearly, Lucky would have been proud. With close to twelve hours ahead of me across the Atlantic and the continental USA, it feels a bit like Christmas.

Yet, the contrast could not be more pronounced when I return to “The View From Flyover Country: Essays by Sarah Kendzior” on my tablet. Being based in St Louis, Sarah has been one of the earliest and most prescient critics of the Trump Administration. The essays in the e-book were written when she worked as a journalist for Al Jazeera and most of them portray the harsh lived reality of the “other America”. While similar stories of precarization could be written about Sweden, the essays somehow capture callousness of a different magnitude, in particular when addressing the impossibilities of parenthood in a world of temporary adjunct positions and maddening debt spirals. While cities such as St Louis may have been hit particularly hard by the Great Recession, I saw very similar things in Baltimore back in February. Undoubtedly, inequality remains the defining issue of our times and, unless the trends begin to reverse, I am very worried about the long-term prospects for democracy in the US (even without Trump).



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