Saturday, October 8, 2011

I Don't Want To BE Negative, I Just Am

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.



mouse (aka kimy) said...

excellent - thanks for articulating so wonderfully sentiments that i share...not to mention the life experiences we share (parents, our coming-of-age, value shift, etc)

i spent a couple hours at the occupy cleveland encampment today and was so HAPPY to see so many young people...this is a big change from the post-9/11 anti-war protest gatherings where the majority of folks were 40 (or 50) and up..... although i won't be camping out i do plan to go down and be a body of support and a supplier of sustenance - i figure the campers will appreciate some good wholesome, homecooked food

Anonymous said...

I feel the same way as you do..I don't think any of the politicians get it, that many are homeless and hungry each and everyday, and yes many are college graduates too! Poverty hits all the people now, to think those bankers got off screwing the american people without so much as a prison term???? Where is the outcry? Also many work at love level jobs and just get enough for the little ones and no food for themselves to work at 60 hour a week jobs and have to go to food pantries to get some food for themselves..Veterans denied anykind of help at the VA yet many work at the VA and get generous health benefits, good pay, annual leave, sick leave( I used to work for them a long long time) it is shameful the greatest country of the world USA is turning into one big pit of Poverty and many don't give a damn at all, it is very very sad..I think whatever you have in this world needs to be shared..why be so selfish, my parents immigrants to this great country always helped out anyone and we were a big family, now people have maybe 1 child and live in huge homes and don't give a rat's you know what about anyone bue themselves..I was enlightened to hear about the Occupy movement, reminded me of protests of the Vietnam war in San Diego, california in the late 60's and 70's not everyone believed in that war..just saying!!!!!!!!!

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

During the demonstrations in the 60s, I thought we were so close to making everything better. Sigh. When did greed get to be okay?

Star said...

We could all do a lot better to help other people but it's the distribution which worries me the most. It's something like 95% of the wealth of the nation is in the hands of 5% of the population. That's where it's wrong!

Linda@VS said...

Oh, you're plenty smart. Other than that, I agree with this entire post.

Judy said...

I wish I could sit down with you over a cup of coffee and chat about life. Tipping my hat to you today! I don’t understand where social/civil obligation has gone. The “me” generation and those who feel entitled and narcissistic, have forgotten about the collective “we” and the need to help each other. There did “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”. I’m heading down to join Occupy Iowa this week.

Wendilea said...

I totally agree with you CG! I was raised lower middle class and remember what hunger feels like... it is inexcusable that in the richest country in the world, its own people are falling prey to hunger and joblessness because the ultra wealthy won't share. I visited the Occupy Wall Street in NYC on Sat. and the reason the news won't give them coverage is because they are bright and articulate and it would be too threatening to the status quo. We can all contribute something to the cause! Wonderful post!

California Girl said...


Rather than try to respond to each individually, I want to thank you all for some very thoughtful comments. Each one of you finds some thing(s) that resonate. That's important for a movement to succeed.

Last night, on my 3 hour drive home from Logan Airport (birthday celebration in New Orleans) WBUR-FM had two students from the Boston segment of Occupy Wall St and they were articulate, focused and absolutely on the mark when it came to representing the viewpoints and objectives of the movement. I wish I could have heard the whole thing before I lost the signal.

Anyway, thank you for thinking about this and responding.

injaynesworld said...

Good post, my friend. I have nothing to add except, I too, have been damn lucky because a lot of people sacrificed a helluva a lot to build the nation I got to grow up in. Elizabeth Warren is right. No one succeeds on their own. They succeed on the backs of those who came before them. I'm so happy to see the OWS movement. I wondered if it would happen again in my lifetime. My generation took to the streets and ended the Vietnam war. Maybe this generation can end the war on the middle class. Keep speaking out.

Nancy said...

Excellent post. We CAN make them care if we want to - the key word here is MAKE. Because they are not going to give up anything to anyone - that much is crystal clear.

California Girl said...

jayne: yeah. we did make a difference. i wrote this post because of my leftover feelings from those days. people were INVOLVED. they were sending messages. i think they're finally doing it again.

Nancy: Perhaps, if the OWS movement continues to gain momentum, they will be forced to comply.


by Cole Scott