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June 17, 2020  

A Divided America Is Experiencing Very Different Pandemics

June 17, 2020

When the Large Hadron Collider opened in 2008, deep beneath the French-Swiss border, some people feared it would be the literal end of the world—that slamming particles together at 99.999999% the speed of light would create an all-consuming black hole, or even strangelets, hypothetical particles that may convert existing matter into “strange matter.” Twelve years later, scientists continue to smash particles together in the name of discovering what the universe is made of, and the earth is still here...for now.

Why bring that up here, in a podcast about building stronger and more financially resilient cities? Because right now it feels like Americans are the ones in the collider. That’s the metaphor our friend Chris Arnade used in an excellent article on what the COVID-19 crisis is revealing about the United States. He writes:

In physics, to reveal deeper truths, you slam particles together to expose their inner structure.

The pandemic has been like that, slamming different parts of the country together, revealing it to be deeply divided by geography, race, education, and wealth. It is hard to imagine it once fit together or will ever fit together again.

Each week on Upzoned, host Abby Kinney, an urban planner in Kansas City, takes one article from the news and she “upzones” it, looking at it through the Strong Towns lens. In this episode Abby is joined by Strong Towns Program Director Rachel Quednau, and together they discuss Chris Arnade’s American Compass article, “Chaos in the Time of Covid.”

Abby and Rachel talk about how Americans are experiencing the pandemic very differently from one another, Arnade’s ability to lift the veil on communities too often obscured or ignored, and whether or not politics has become a religion. Abby and Rachel also discuss reasons for hope, including the way divisions often start to break down at the neighborhood level. 

Then in the Downzone, Rachel recommends a book from her Strong Towns colleague on how faith communities can join in the work of neighborhood revitalization. And Abby discusses her experience—both as a presenter and as an attendee—at last week’s CNU virtual gathering.

What about you? Do you believe, as Chris Arnade seems to, that the colliding particles of American society will continue to decay and dissipate? Or do you see reasons for hope in your community? Listen to this episode, then let us know over on the Strong Towns Community site.

Additional Show Notes