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Sunday, September 12, 2010 12:52 AM ET: "Number of Families in Shelters Rises" and "Watching the Catwalk, and Clicking ‘Add to Cart.’"

The first story tells us that "from 2007 through 2009, the number of families in homeless shelters — households with at least one adult and one minor child — leapt to 170,000 from 131,000." Reading the article, we learn of the Griffith-Lennon family, who through no fault of their own find themselves living in a homeless shelter.

But just pixels away, we find that "In this fall’s women’s runway shows, which started Thursday with New York Fashion Week, shoppers at their keyboards will have a front-row seat." Rich consumers are buying again.

Burberry, whose A-line Trench Coat clocks in at Neiman Marcus at $1,195, "will allow anyone with a computer and a credit card to order the merchandise as models strut in it." We can guess that those items will hit at more than the measly $1,200 coat at Neiman Marcus.

There have always been Two Americas, the social stratification that the disgraced John Edwards described as "the America of the privileged and the wealthy, and the America of those who lived from paycheck to paycheck" or, today, from unemployment check to unemployment check. The incongruities of the media have had them co-existing on newspaper front pages before this, but today at the end of our remembrances of 9-11, there was something so heartbreaking about our lost dreams that I decided to write.

The Griffith-Lennon family has never had and likely never will have a credit card with which they would remotely consider ordering a $1,200 designer coat. They once had a sport-utility vehicle and a minivan and a three bedroom condo but now the four of them share two single beds in a room at Crossroads shelter.

Tonight I had dinner at a nice hotel in Vancouver on the 30th floor overlooking a beautiful city. Earlier, at another place in the city someone had told me that if I walked just three blocks in the pointed direction I would be able to see junkies making sales on the street. Tonight a table of people from several countries, those of us from the US told stories about 9-11. I didn’t mention the junkies now ten blocks away or how as a child I was too poor to eat at any restaurant much less one thirty stories above a wealthy city.

Whichever of the two Americans, or perhaps really three, we live in, we do not want to think much about the others. A friend had told me a day before about his various visits with some very wealthy people appointed by the governor to serve on a committee that could dramatically affect the future of higher education in our state.  He felt they had already made up their minds about the main issues and there was nothing he could do to sway them. They had the mindset of the rich, he thought, and the assurance that they were right. It was frightening to think that in their own ways they were as closed minded as some Tea Partiers but had sanction from the state to act on their lack of knowledge and biases.

It is difficult to live at peace in a world where the once-middle class sleeps in squalor, discomfort and discontent while the real Carrie Bradshaws of the world spend enough on clothes to feed and house the Griffith-Lennons for a year. Difficult to find a way forward when the goodwill of the world on 9-11 was squandered to fight meaningless wars. Difficult to know how to make progress when government is dictated by wealthy people who would not even notice the pathetic irony of those two headlines.

Maybe better answers will accidently present themselves though confluences on the online front page of the NYT tomorrow.

Originally posted to bently on Sat Sep 11, 2010 at 11:43 PM PDT.

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