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    Tuesday, May 09, 2006

    Class Beyond the Coasts

    Living on the East Coast, it's easy to forget exactly how class functions in the "fly-over states". Where I grew up, there were certainly people with money and (community) influence. There were the "rich people" streets and neighborhoods, where houses spread an acre and glimmering SUVs sat in the curved driveway. The people who lived in these houses shopped at Dillards rather than Mervyns or Walmart. They went on cruises instead of camping, went skiing all the time in the winter. They ate out at the Olive Garden, instead of Denny's. They wore Northface backpacks and Oakley sunglasses and Abercrombie jeans if they were under 40; Land's End, Eddie Bauer, and Talbots if 40+. Their houses had big screen TVs and new computers.

    The "rich" of where I grew up would most likely be considered "middle class" where I live now, regardless of income. Foreign travel, even for the wealthiest among us, was rare. We didn't have an opera or a charity fundraiser where people went on Saturday nights to show they counted as "rich". Many of the upper crust had grown up there, gone to school there, and stayed there. With the exceptions of a couple of parochial schools, even the richest kids in town didn't attend private school. The private parochial schools were mostly made up of the children of the town's strictest parents, rather than those with the most money. Though hundreds of kids in my high school class applied to Ivy League schools, even the valedictorians, even the richest kids, were not accepted. (A girl two years ahead of us, daughter of a rich man, was accepted to Yale.) Many of the best students went on to attend very good schools throughout the country. And when they got there, they probably found out that they weren't actually rich. That's probably why a great many of them returned after college to start their families where they were the elite.

    And that, my dear readers, is why conservatives can appeal to a majority by saying that any resistance to, say, the estate tax or corporate regulation is "class warfare", while also railing against the educated liberal elite. Because having money in most of the country is not the same as being able to recognize a symphony or speak French.

    So, when we go:

    "How is it possible that these people are falling for the Republicans 'class warfare' bullshit when our policies would help them?"

    Here's my answer: some of these people think they're rich, even if to us they seem too lowbrow to possibly be wealthy. And what they hate is not people with money, but snobs.

    That's my response to some of this.


    Blogger ms_xeno said...

    The funny thing is, there's more and more straddling of classes-- starting off in one class and ending up in a lower class. And that's thanks to the machinations of both political policies. Will this lead to a better-educated lower class, overall ?

    I'm not going to pretend that I'm in imminent danger of homelessness and poverty right now, but it's a real long-term possibility for a lot of college-educated middle-class kids of my generation, in a way it wasn't to our parents.

    I'm afraid that what the DP decides to peddle to get us out to vote for them isn't nearly as important as the fact that surely every member of the House and Senate is swimming in money, and can count on swimming in yet more of it when they leave office. Then again, I'm an indy voter.

    3:12 PM  

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