One thing that struck me about Captain America: The Winter Soldier was the film’s emphasis on recognition scenes. Steve Rogers, the protagonist, has been asleep for 70 years, and the America that he finds on waking is a much different one than the one he grew up knowing. For the past couple weeks I’ve found myself collecting links about the ways in which the United States has become unrecognizable, even in my lifetime, and it’s far past time I shared them. (I’d like to disclaim again that I’m in no way saying that the 1940s and that whole “Greatest Generation” thing are more authentic or superior somehow. See also: Feminism, civil rights and modern medicine, for starters.)
What got me started on this link-hoarding spree was finding a handful of essays about cost of living in San Francisco, London and New York, versus the affordability gap between metro areas and exurban cities in general. Salon called gentrification violence, a particular kind that thrives on erasure. You’re expected to participate in these processes, if you want certain things for your career. You may have no choice, if you’re lucky.
I say “if you’re lucky” because education is very much a part of where opportunities happen, and education at all levels in the United States is in serious trouble. Teach for America, which sells itself as a chance for high-achieving college grads to do good in school districts that need the most help, is a destructive scam. Overworking students and teachers isn’t just an epidemic in the UK. The arms race for admission to the most elite colleges has tipped well into obscenity. The “superbrand” universities are coming out fine, assuming you discount the hidden costs of attending and the ongoing job market and salary catastrophe for adjuncts, grad students and non-tenured faculty. (Polls are finding that superbrand college experiences aren’t even necessary for happiness or success, but the allure of prestige is so hard at 17 or 18, especially when you’re terrified that if you “settle” now, you’ll have missed your chance forever.) Again, this is all assuming you get in the door.
Meanwhile, government keeps failing us, and we’re too deadlocked to see our way out: knowing more about issues and situations actually entrenches our partisanship further. Redistricting has turned the organizational units of Congress into a place with virtually no idealogical overlap. Racism entrenches those divisions further still. See what happens when only certain people can afford to live where there are jobs?
This is a really cursory, totally surface-level collection of links; I keep following these stories whenever they crop up, and the deep-current trends are distressing and overwhelming. These are not necessarily the best links about these stories, just the most recent. If I dug more, I could put together something much more damning. The conversation is hard to start, particularly when the first piece of financial advice for young people always seems to be “Stop buying $5 lattes every day.” It shows how little that side understands the economic situation of most young people if it assumes we’ve got disposable income like that.
No wonder I’d much prefer to spend the rest of the day fantasizing about how amazing Hayley Atwell’s Agent Peggy Carter is going to be. If this badass can triumph over the sexism and every other -ism of the 1940s, we should have a fighting chance too, right?