I was born on the right side of the tracks. In fact, where I grew up, the other side of the tracks wasn’t exactly poor either. Despite what part of town one lived in, it was a nice place to raise a family. The socio/economic dynamics in Flushing Queens during the 70’s & 80’s was an “aspired to” representation of pre-deregulation, middle class America. And whether our Dads wore blue or white collars, they were –for the most part– able to provide their children with the tools they needed.
While my family wasn’t wealthy, neither were we deprived. Indeed, as a child I had nice, store bought clothes to wear. I always had food on my plate, and snacks in our cupboard. The detached center hall colonial that I called home was accoutered with nice furniture, and expensive carpeting. We were cool in the summer, and warm in the winter. I even got the bike I wanted for Christmas.
However, my brother and I did have to share a bedroom. Oh, the horror!
But not a day goes by where I am not aware of the advantages I had. Certainly my parents did not spoil their children, nor did they indulge us like sickening new millennium parents, but they gave us all of what we needed, some of what we wanted, and north star to guide our way. Sure, my family underwent the usual dysfunction that most suburbanites experience growing up –my big sister and I once got into a brawl over a banana (we sure as hell weren’t the Cleavers)– but the travails of North Flushing accorded no real hardships.
… At least not the kinds of hardships that those in poverty stricken, inner city communities endured.
I never had to go to school without having eaten the night before, and try to concentrate during a test while dizzy from hunger. When I was told that I could not have something, it was because my parents had their reasons, not because they couldn’t afford it. I was disciplined, but I was never beaten. I was never abused. I was never thrown against the wall and frisked by the police while walking home. I was never treated badly because of the color of my skin.
I cannot pretend to comprehend the lives of those whose daily existence is so foreign to me. Even as I write this, I understand that I do not understand what it was like to grow up so much differently than I did. I dare not presume to.
My white, middle-class status at birth accorded education and opportunities which translated into a comfortable lifestyle in my adulthood. There are a lot of social dynamics that work in one’s favor that are all-too easily taken for granted by many middle-class white folks. It’s certainly easier to pull one’s self up by one’s own bootstraps when there is a significant support system helping you.
So I guess the point I’m trying to make is, that there are a lot of middle class people who take their background for granted. Not all, but some. I know that a lot of us like to think that we’re so damn terrific that our singular work ethic and acumen have enabled us to avoid the fate of those who have economically fallen. But the point from where we begin life’s journey usually means an awful lot.
In my early adulthood I had the luxury of having my father to indulge me. When I struggled –be it financially or emotionally– he was there, in whatever capacity I needed him. The man I eventually grew into and the man I aspire to be is because of the strength and stability of the man I was lucky enough to call “Dad”. Many who are reading this share the same fortunate experience. Many others wish they had.
I shudder to think who I would be today without him.
This piece in neither about “white guilt”, or institutional racism. It is about being able to practice honest introspection. A little humility about ourselves, and empathy for those less fortunate is something lacking in our discourse. Social media, and the accompanying lack of personal interaction, has translated into a severe lack of compassion for others. We too easily dismiss those in poverty as not having our own intrepid spirit, when in fact our own spirits would have been also broken had we been born into their circumstance.
If not for a couple of decent breaks, the poor which so many cavalierly dismiss, are all of us.
If you are sane, and read the bible from Genesis to Revelations, there is a distinct probability that you’ll become an Atheist. If you are sane, inclined towards Christianity, and only read the New Testament, more likely you’ll become a Liberal Democrat. However if you’re just a douche bag who’s more concerned with justifying a departure from Christian ideals by bastardizing Christian tenets so as to coincide with a bigoted, uninformed, myopic world view, the twenty-first century term that might best describe your socio/political outlook would be “Conservative Republican.”
There are a whole lot of douche bags who vote.
How else could one explain the rationale behind the throngs of TEA-vangelical voters who’s socio/economic angst is directed at the very same people that Jesus of Nazareth advocated for? How can one claim to be a Christian and vote for candidates who are pro-gun, anti-health care, and who not only want to cut aid to the poor, but who are also tireless defenders of the wealthy? What Jesus were they reading about? When did “love thy neighbor” come to mean “screw ’em?”
Moreover, what part of a sane mind could possibly make these socio/economic determinations in a Christian context? It’s dizzying how many TEA party folks cling to the lowest rung of the middle class –or less– and have been convinced by twenty-first century political televangelists that the source of their economic woes are those further down the economic ladder, or their neighbor with a different bumper sticker. The leaders of the Tea Party, like the Koch Brothers (who are obscenely wealthy) sell pseudo Christian/patriotism to fearful, emotionally assailable, socio/economic illiterates who show up to rally’s in their floral printed Walmart bought house coats and tri-cornered hats. Many of the TEA Party proletariat are sadly already on some form of government assistance, yet they are so easily manipulated that they’ve been deluded into thinking that their voting decisions won’t affect them personally. In their minds, the TEA Party will protect them from the poor.
“When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.” ― Sinclair Lewis
And then, once those guilty of creating the present economic conditions (which are increasingly moving towards an Orwellian disproportion of wealth) have “scapegoated” the poor (who actually control only about two percent of the wealth in this country) for the uber-wealthy’s very un-Christian-like social crimes, and undermining of our financial system for their personal profit, they run TEA Party candidates who espouse these same ridiculous, fact deficient ideals. Flag waving idiots turn out for them in droves, while voting against their own best interests. It’s what Jesus would have wanted.
The TEA Party anxiety directed towards the poor –you know, the ones that Jesus Christ had this slight attachment to — is so powerful that Christian Politi-Vangelists have also convinced the dullards who vote for them that they need to help them make the rich more wealthy, than they already are by lowering their taxes past the record lows that they are presently paying. Moreover, that the working class must also bear the entire burden of economic austerity. Tea-vangelicals vote to cut Medicare, Medicaid, raise the retirement age, and privatize social security for dumb shmucks like themselves. If one wants to be a good TEA Party Christian, they also have to be against poor people having access to health care, and education while simultaneously raising the amount of tax dollars that go to military spending where the United States already spends more than the next twenty six countries combined, twenty five of whom are allies.
Because the rich shall inherit the earth, and it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a poor person to enter the gates of heaven…. or something like that. The TEA Party doesn’t embrace Christian ideals, as much as they embrace Chuck Norris. The Koch brothers must be laughing their asses off at how many idiots keep falling for the Jesus gag.
So with the rise of evangelism in American politics via the TEA Party, policy is affected thusly. When we elect people to public office who are so mentally and emotionally disturbed that they base their decision making process on the psychotic wishes of an invisible macrocosm commander, then terrible things are bound to happen. History is replete with theocratic atrocities. Yet many Americans are stupid enough to keep repeating those same mistakes and allowing ourselves to be suckered by those who speak lyrical “Godsmack”.
Throughout history, every time religion is the dominating political force, the aristocracy reigns, and the ranks of the poor swell. Most people suffer and die in poverty, needlessly, while a scant few live in obscene luxury. Now they are calling that capitalism (it’s not, btw).
Dominionist politicians would have you believe that their Fundamentalism is akin to a grandmother knitting a sweater, when in reality, it’s more like jamming the knitting needle into your eye socket. It is a consistent, ritualistic, form of counter-education and abusive mind control. Dominionism is a means of enacting a theocracy so as to control the populace, and ultimately, the nation’s purse strings.
Political predators who capitalize on fear and ignorance of the TEAvangelical movement are affecting much of our nation’s legislation. But first, they must control the process by which we think. They must control our determinations. They must steer the nature by which form our perceptions so as to make it easy for them to profit. They are not really in the Christianity business, they are in the idiot business. Christian Americans, and moreover, the Twenty-first century excuses for Republican voters, are just their customers.
For some hard economic facts, watch the following video: