One of the things I loved about the USA when I was young was that we were a classless society. As I got older I was more realistic; I celebrated that we were much less of a class-based society than others around the world.
But in our new Gilded Age we are losing even the appearance of classlessness.
Today I saw a cartoon by one of my favorite cartoonists, Jen Sorenson, that illustrates the new class-stratification. Not long ago Thanksgiving was an almost universal holiday. Only those who filled the essential jobs in our society—police, nurse, firemen—worked on that day. Now of course, with Black Friday starting ever earlier, more and more of the working class are being required to work as if this holiday were just another day of the week. Sorensen writes, “Like so many aspects of American life, holidays have become two-tiered.”
Lots of people will be flying this Thanksgiving weekend and have a front-row seat, if you will, to the increasingly class-tiered airlines. I don’t fly often, but last summer I went to see family. I bought my ticket four months in advance and was surprised at how limited the seat choices were. When I was waiting to board my first flight I learned the reason: the airlines are now selling access to aisle seats, selling the right to board early to get first-crack at the overhead bins, etc. As the gate attendant called off the boarding zones I realized I was in the “brown” group, one of the pitiful povs who boarded last (nod to SouthPark).