Larry Gabriel's observations and commentary on contemporary life in the United States and in the D are something I look forward to every week. Larry's recent comments about Eugene Robinson's book Disintegration ("The usual suspects," May 25) were especially interesting. I think Robinson's characterization of the fragmentation of black society into four groups, while more evident among the smaller numbers of African-Americans, applies equally to all of American society. Many Americans who are lucky enough to still have jobs count themselves as Mainstream, that is working-class or even middle-class people with jobs, though their numbers appear to be shrinking as wages and benefits continue to erode. The Abandoned, the poor and poorly educated people on the margins of society, appears to be the group that has shown the steadiest increase in numbers over the past decade. Layoffs, outsourcing, cuts in government support in the name of fiscal responsibility, and the warning from our leaders that their former jobs will never return have caused more and more of us to slip between the cracks. The Transcendent class seems to be, if not increasing in numbers but certainly increasing their share of the wealth. The top 1 percent of all wage earners now make nearly 40 percent of all the income in America. Bankers, CEOs, hedge fund managers, politicians (even governors), rock stars and professional athletes now occupy an elite position in American society seemingly immune from fiscal ruin or legal responsibility for all manner of bad behavior. The Emergent group is as yet an unknown quantity, though they surely will determine the future direction of our society. These are the youngish, computer-literate, Gen X and Y types for whom gender, racial and cultural differences have no meaning. For them, history started the day they were born; Vietnam, Watergate, the March on Washington are all just factoids to be memorized for a history exam and forgotten. This is the group who rejects the idea that being a good citizen means marriage, buying a house, putting down roots, raising a family, paying one's taxes and all the "right things" that my generation was sadly and mistakenly taught would pay off in the end.
Mr. Robinson was right on in his assessment of the fragmentation of our society and the interaction and the competition between these groups is going to be interesting to watch. Which of these groups will grow to dominate is anyone's guess. —Roger Gienapp, Birmingham