Monday, October 24, 2011

One insult too far: America’s class war, one prole at a time

Bush as Moronic Scion of the Moneyed Class
All through the 2000 campaign and up to Sept. 11, 2001, the corporate media depicted Bush as an affable, tongue-tied bumbler — the kind of guy Joe Six-pack would like to have a beer with — turning a blind eye to his dark underside. It mattered not that he stocked his illicit administration with the worst of the worst: John Ashcroft, Donald Rumsfeld, Gale Norton, Paul O'Neill, Harvey Pitt, Thomas White, John Negroponte, Otto Reich and convicted Iran-contra felon Elliot Abrams who received a 1992 Christmas Eve pardon from George W.'s father. Click here for whole story. (Bev Conover, Online Journal)

For many of us raised in lower middle-class families, our aspirations to moremore wealth, more recognition, more luxury, more acceptance by the upper classwere sated somewhat during the nation’s economic good times. We were able, for a minute, to forget that we really were one pay check or contract from the streets, as our parents might have been but for unions. We were able, for a minute, to pretend to be part of the beautiful people, however we defined the term.

This, friends, is another mea culpa which I hope will be instructive to those who fail to support OWS (Occupy Wall Street) in every possible way. I am, I think, very much an Everywoman in this, or if not Every, at least Verymanywoman.

Heady times on the East Side
As much as I hate to admit it, we attended church in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and not just any church, THE Episcopal Church in Manhattan, St. Thomas. It is beautiful, a French Gothic cathedral nestled amongst the international boutiques of Fifth Avenue. We lived nearby, on the WEST side. Still, it was only an eight-minute walk. (Later, we moved on up to the East Side, still one contractwe were freelancersaway from living in a packing crate over a warm, if odiferous, sewer grate, like the wheezing fat woman who slept in hers beneath the buttresses of OUR church.)

We loved the church. It was hard not to. The Rector was a supremely well-educated, well-connected and absolutely rigorous Englishman who seemed to appreciate our slightly off-kilter reactions to things, our willingness to serve, and our ability to use the proper fork.  He appointed us to all sorts of thingsus being me and my second husband. We were happy; it seemed we had been accepted, and all we had to do was genuflect and contribute.

The music was world-class, too. What a church! And there, we met one of the many clergy on staff and his family. They lived on the East Side, a bit farther from the church, and light years away from living in a packing crate over the sewer grates at St. Thomas. We became friends, spent Christmases together, visited each other’s houses when we moved out to Darien, CT….still one contract away from living in a tent on the Goodwives River, which flows amongst mansions of historic value and stunning beauty. 

We were renting one of those places, a falling-down one. You could see ground if you were vacuuming in the ground-floor sitting room and got close to where the walls met the ancient floorboards. Beetle damage, we later learned. We might be able to afford to buy the house at its fire-sale price, about $250,000, but repairing it to livable standard would cost twice that. We could live in this historic home in frozen misery, but could never have afforded to bring it up to snuff. So we moved on. One frozen winter in the epicenter of American snobbery was sufficient, and the promise of Reagan’s trickle-down economy seemed to have frozen in the pipes.

Ashes to ashes
Years and years and years passed. And behold, a dim-witted psychopathic son of one of the nation’s self-proclaimed best families became president. And I became seriously annoyed. No, incensed. I decided the least I could do was include one of Dimwit’s many blunders as a sort of mini-bio at the end of my emails. I lost a couple of clients over it, but then, I really didn’t want to write stuff for insurance companies…although I was a lot less than a whole contract away from living under the trees on smelly Western Run in Baltimore, the skunky trickle that passed for a river behind the formerly luxury apartments I lived in, alone.

One day I got an email from the clergyman. It said that he could well understand how “you people” could disdain the heroic president but if I cared to continue to be “childish,” I needn’t correspond with him in future.

Oh dear. What had happened to our friendship? They had moved, too, to the far West and rented out their Manhattan townhouse to pay the death duties on the $6.5 mil it was worth, as it wasn’t theirs: they had been freeloading on a parent for decades.

It took me precisely 4 seconds to figure out what had happened. We had been no more than amusing house pets to our rich friends. The Rector had once remarked to my husband that he was glad we were friends with the rich couple. We didn’t understand it at the time; in retrospect, we decided it was so that they could be kept in touch with normal people, people who couldn’t sell a priceless Ashcan School painting they didn’t like to pay private school tuition for their kids. This beat working, you see, becauseanywaythey really didn’t know how to actually work.

So I wrote back, immediately. I can’t recall exactly what I said, but I can tell you, it was not apologetic. I basically torched the sucker, verbally, which was the least I could do after a few decades of being the house pet of the moneyed class, now that I understood. My friends, of course, applauded my action. We had a lot of fun for a while with the word childish, bandied about at odd moments, and with the phrase you people as well.

Trickle-down blew up in my face
How did all this happen? If I had written best-sellers instead of being a journeyman journalist, would I have appended the moronic statements of George W. Bush to my emails as I did? Would I have felt differently if I were a resident of the aeries of the rich and not a late royalty check away from living outdoors beneath the spires of a church that served the moneyed classes of New York so very, very well?  My emails were a possibly pathetic attempt to convince at least one more person of Bush’s unsuitability to lead so much as a walk down the street, never mind a huge, rich, populous nation into endless, lower-class-eating wars.

George W. Bush was deemed suitable because he was of the class of my former friends, those who don’t need to work, which is a good thing, because they don’t know how. And a good part of the rest of the nation was fooled by him, attracted by the thought of being one with him by voting for him, and not realizing that in actuality, they were house pets. 

But this rich owner, unlike the people I allowed to keep me in ignorance for too long, was abusive. After a small taste of fresh milk, Americans of every class but upper were to be treated not only to the toe of a boot, but to the added abuse of all Bush’s cronies, conspiring together because, suddenly, they didn’t need the house pets anymore. House pets became expendable, more trouble than they were worth. And so, now, those house pets are camped by the river, looking for a way to regain a place even in the shadow of the house, somewhat protected from the elements, if not the coveted place at the rich man’s fire.

It is pitiful. It is as pitiful as my supposed friendship with the Swell Family was. The swells of every stripe have revealed themselves as false friends, as those who will kick the house pet out into traffic as soon as the house pets become troublesome, think for themselves, or understand that there is not one single thing their government has done since George W. Bush moved into the mansion that was not insulting and designed to make everyone not of his lofty strata live in sewers and eat shit.

Frank Rich penned a recent, well-reseached and lengthy column in the New York Times about class warfare. Read it here.