Since World War II, the assumption of American hegemony has never been much in doubt.That quotation will come as a surprise to a lot of old cold warriors, whose bread and butter was precisely "doubt" about American hegemony in the face of "expansionist" Soviet Communism. Well, one doesn't read the Times for history. The notion of a post-Soviet Pax Americana, even a short-lived one, is as ludicrous as it is popular--which is to say, very. There was the first Gulf War and the sanctions régime that followed; there were the Balkan conflicts; there was Rwanda; there was Somalia; there were the first World Trade Center bombings, the USS Cold, the rise of the Taliban/Mujahadeen in Afghanistan; near-war between India and Pakistan; a coup in Pakistan; Chechnya. Some Pax, eh?
It turns out that the United States is not immune fom the tidal forces of history nor exempt from consequences for its own decisions. Yet at the heart of it is a gross misconception:
Some of those interviewed, like Raymond E. Dixon, a Kansas City computer programmer, said they were confident their children would not enjoy the same standard of living they had, calling it a reversal of the American dream.This notion that the never-ending growth in the square footage of the average American home, the increase in the number of cars and acres per family, and the multiplication of electronic tchotchkes, euphemized as "standard of living," constitute The American Dream has always struck me mostly as a farce. My father, his parents, and his four brothers grew up in one half of a brick duplex in Pittsburgh. The other half was shared by a family with two parents, twelve children and an in-house grandmother, and yet the quality of that life was in almost every way superior to the atomized inanity of the three-car-garage subdivision years later. Hell, even that shitty old duplex was made with real brick and real plaster, had real wood trim, a real porch, walls more than four inches thick. They lived their lives embedded in a neighborhood in a community. They knew people, and not just bland coworkers and some fellow churchgoers who spend a few hours a week together in a converted big box off some highway interchange. The increased standard of living whose passing is now bemoaned by our newspaper-quoted "voters" is marked mostly by an increase in personal misery and isolation. The literature and film of suburban anomie is cliché, and there's too much of it--but it reached that stage for a reason. The suburbs and exurbs are anomic. They represent a failed economic model for the nation, and they more significantly represent a failed human ideal for our society.