I was raised in a white upper middle class Conservative family.
My parents grew up during the Depression, went through WWII and came out on the other side to become part of the working middle class who elevated themselves financially. Their early experiences may have shaped their thinking but they also had help from the Federal government thanks to numerous social policies implemented including the Social Security Act and the GI Bill.
White people in this country were all pretty much in the same boat so I don't think they faced the obstacles the white middle class now faces. My parents' prejudices, particularly my father's, stemmed from poverty. For some, prejudice allows people to feel better about their station in life because there is somebody or another class of people over whom they feel elevated. It's twisted but I think it's true.
I was raised to believe I would have a better life than my parents because it was supposed to be that way. Of course, it wasn't that easy and I was quite surprised by the low paying jobs I had to take when I graduated college. Somewhere along the way, I began to change my thinking. I had experiences. To paraphrase John Lennon, "life got in the way of my plans." I became a Liberal, criticizing Nixon, Viet Nam, the Establishment, racial discrimination. We moved east to rural Kentucky, south to Virginia, experiencing other regions and cultures and a lot of severe poverty first-hand. My husband became a social worker. We did volunteer work. I knew the U.S. had the resources to eliminate poverty and help others achieve the American Dream but it always seemed in the near distant future. That was back in the Seventies. Now, in the 21st Century, it is farther away than ever.
I don't understand people who have so much and don't want to help those who do not. I don't understand the lack of obligation to others less fortunate, whatever the reason. I don't understand ANY sense of entitlement. I've worked hard to have a good career but I know it is luck more than hard work that has kept me employed. I'm not that smart. I am that lucky.
We owe all children an education. College should be a given. We are still one of the wealthiest countries in the world yet we have a 19% poverty rate??? Inexcusable. We pay farmers to destroy food crops when starvation is rampant throughout the world? We can't deliver food, medical supplies and the like to people under seige without its falling into the hands of pirates who'll steal and sell it? We give politicians, the very people who won't help us solve our problems, great benefits like health insurance and a lifelong pension? Our priorities are so screwed up.
Let's hope "Occupy Wall Street" is the beginning of a tidal wave of non-compliance towards the people who don't care. We can make them care if we really want to.