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« Another inappropriate cartoon... | Main | The story behind the early voting »

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


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I think "they" are the terrorists now. And "they" have been on a roll...

OK, seriously, lemme use this as an opportunity to bring up one of my favorite subjects. We're agreed, as a nation, that racism is something we have to treat with seriousness. We're sloooooowly coming to terms with sexism, though not everyone agrees that sexism is anything other than "political correctness." At least there's some conversation about this.

But when it comes to ANYTHING dealing with class, I don't see conversation taking place. Not that we don't -- all of us -- experience acute class-based emotions and attitudes. Rather we do these things in very odd ways, with guilt and pleasure and interior conflicts that make us easy targets for manipulation.

Class was political issue No. 1 in the early 20th century, when socialism and communism were valid movements in America. Upton Sinclair. Haymarket. Flying Squadrons. Pinkertons. The beginnings of the labor movement in America were violent times, and you by-god had a class identification.

Today? Nothing gets me as much derision and scorn as any moment when I try to bring up class, and it comes from every direction.

I think your internal conflict comes from the knowledge that you've succeeded in positioning your son for a successful future... while knowing that the system is, for most people, rigged. Class in America is a complex game, but whatever the rules, you know it's not a level playing field. So you can't fully enjoy the fact that you've earned your way to this moment.

Which sucks.


Dan, I made a similar argument in a theology school class that loved to dissect race and gender but did very little with class.

My father was a farm boy turned highly successful doctor. Yet he chose not to live in the country club neighborhood and made sure we went to my mid-size Texas town's middle class high school. To slightly tie in Sloop's point, I think he might have been slightly embarrassed had I gone to an Ivy (he wasn't even comfortable with UNC). Certainly, he came down like a hammer any time I spouted off something elitist, which happened.

Now that I am a 30-year-old Ph.D. student married to a public high school teacher, I see class from the other side -- as someone who has no chance in hell of ever having the standard of living I took for granted as a kid. I didn't think I cared when I made the original decisions that led me to this point, but it does bother me some.

How did we, as a nation, get talked out of the idea that class mattered? That's another conversation, but a good one.


Growing up we were on the bottom edge of the middle class, a paycheck or two from the trailer park. Many years ago the teacher of our gifted and talented program, had us do a project role playing various situations. (My favorites were the hijacked plane and the plane crash in the Arctic circle.) I clearly remember one where we supposed to be hosting a party and she threw out various complications to the project. First of all, I'd be willing to bet that none of us had been to anything more upscale than a backyard pig picking.
Our idea of a party was soda on ice, macaroni salad, hamburgers, and hot dogs.

She threw out complications such as the power being out, the "flatware" being stolen, vegetarians, and strict adherents to kosher law attending.

We were baffled and she was frustrated near tears with us. We were the smart kids, what was she doing wrong, why didn't we get it? Thinking back on her mannerisms I can now see that she came from another world entirely.

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