I am an American, a southerner, college-educated working fellow, married with three grown, and reasonably happy. I love my wife and I love my life. I am a follower of Jesus. Although I do a 40-hour gig as a maintenance guy for 92 apartments, I am not a member of the working “class.”
All this talk these days, arising from the Democrats and sociologists and talking media heads, about “class” this and “class” that, the “working class,” the “privileged” class, the so-called “disappearing middle class”–I wouldn’t give you a nickel for all of it.
As far as I’m concerned, I am an individual, my own man, and beyond classification. God made me just the way I am, thank you, and I thank Him for that. So you can call me middle-class if you want to. You can classify me in the disappearing middle because my working wage is 2/3 of what I was bringing in at my peak, a dozen or so years ago when I was fifty years old. You can call me middle class, working class, dumb-ass, or whatever you wanna call me, you can call me ray, you can call me jay, or ray jay, or you can call me “hey” or “hey you,” but ya doesn’t have to call me anything at all.
The only identity that matters is what my wife, my grownup young-uns, loved ones and friends call me–Carey. And btw I’ll soon be publishing the third novel, which is named Smoke. So put that in your literary pipe and smoke it.
This little class rant came up this morning because I have been hearing more and more about these designated class distinctions lately, ever since, oh, couple years ago when the Occupy thing started and they were out in the streets–I watched them for two days in Vancouver and Seattle–with their signs about the 1% and the 99% and all that redistributionist and income disparity hype.
Maybe I’m in the 99%, maybe I’m way down in the 50% or even below that. I don’t care. If I had a chance to join the 1%, I would jump at it. This great country was built on upward mobility.
We used to call it the American Dream. I still do. I’m not subscribing to this neo-marxian class stuff. No thank you. It’s just for political manipulation, and I am no political hack’s lackey. Therefore am I not pleased to accept some sociologist’s semi-permanent societal place assignment. Well, maybe “first class”. I would settle for that, but I’m not buying the proletarian, nor the bourgeois label.
Speaking of “not buying”. . .
This morning I began reading David Horowitz’ excellent autobiography, Radical Son.
Here is a passage from page 39 that got my attention, then became, it seems, the impetus for the little bloggish rumination you are now reading. From Radical Son:
“At the time my parents moved into the (Sunnyside) Gardens in 1940, they could have purchased the house on Bliss Street for $4000–less than its original price. But as radicals, they had scorned the opportunity to own property and moved in as renters. Seven years later, the Gardens were acquired by new owners, who decided to sell of the individual units, including our house. A Sunnyside Tenants’ Association was organized to resist the sales.”
Why did David’s parents not buy their house when they had the chance to do it? Weren’t they Americans? Well not yet, apparently.
They were second generation Americans, from Russian immigrants, and they identified themselves as communists. I understand that angst; its where they came from, how they were brought up and so forth. They did not subscribe to the American dream, but to the Russian communist dream that they had brought with them, and then dragged it as excess baggage off the boat at Ellis Island.
Son David later learned, in the school of hard knocks, what it means to be an American, to be an opportunist for yourself and your family, instead of letting yourself be limited by an imposed class identity. If his parents had been willing to learn that lesson in 1940 when they bought their home in Sunnyside Gardens, maybe they would have acceded a little more successfully to the American Dream motivator. But hey, they were immigrants; what can you expect? It takes a generation or two off the boat to acquire a taste for this melting pot porridge. David Horowitz’ life is testimony to that, and that is what his book is about.
Now I’m a southerner, and very different from all those immigrants and their Old World forebears who got off the boat at New York Harbor. (My wife, Pat, is however from an Irish family from New Jersey.) And although my life experience is very different from that of Mr. Horowitz, I sure enjoy reading a good book, which is btw, the key (reading and education) to overcoming all this classist entrapment that’s going around now.
Try it some time, you’ll learn a thing or two from reading a book, even if its on your Kindle.
Tags: 1%, 99%, America, American dream, assimilation, capitalism, classism, communism, David Horowitz, Ellis Island, immigrants, middle class, Occupy, opportunity, Radical Son, Sunnyside Gardens Queens, upward mobility, working class