I was speaking with a wealthy friend and fellow liberal yesterday about the unprecedented level of class warfare now being waged against the faltering middle class and the poor in the United States and she absolutely blew me away with her selfish attitude.
All this privileged federal government employee of African American descent could talk about was how terrible it is that affluent blacks don’t get away with quite as much elitist bullshit as their mainstream white counterparts. For many of the so-called “winners” in our society like her, the gap between rich minorities and rich mainstream whites is the central crisis of our time.
Never mind the offshoring of American jobs, rising suicide rate, woods full of homeless veterans, food pantries packed with hungry families, exploited American workers, people living in their cars in Wal-Mart parking lots, factories being shipped to China, and wanton police brutality toward poor and middle class blacks.
This peculiar strain of affluenza has been spreading through our nation’s privilege bubbles ever since Donald Trump began doing his Benito Mussolini imitation in the public forum. Even though such deplorable behavior represents a complete betrayal of both the suffering of their forebears and The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s pursuit of economic justice.
The Trumpish behavior of these opportunistic Americans is becoming a real problem for us all. It doesn’t matter whether they’re African Americans like the rapper Snoop Dogg and actress Stacey Dash, Jews like singer Gene Simmons and actor Ben Stein, Albanian immigrants like Martin Shkreli, or prominent Hispanic Americans like former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales who won’t toe the scratch when Trump calls them out for fear of losing their place in the local country club buffet line. Even Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan has praised The Donald.
It’s hard to miss the underlying message that they’re wealthy first and foremost, and everything else only when convenient. And if kowtowing to a rich bigot is in their own selfish interest, then get out of the way because they’ve got some bowing and scraping to do.
These pampered elites seem to share an alarming detachment from the real world in our increasingly segmented society. It’s a world where the wealthy no longer live beside the rest of us, work beside the rest of us work, play where the rest of us play, or send their kids to the public schools our kids attend.
Separate and unequal is apparently back and as MLK noted, it’s just as intertwined with wealth as ethnicity and skin tone.
Who can blame rich minority elites for abandoning their own at a time when the poor and middle class are being systematically stripped of our dignity, homes, savings and security?
It’s good to be rich in the U.S.
Better and better every year since the compulsory military draft ended in 1973. And with the rise of automation the lower income classes are little more than surplus population now. So why not treat us as such?
Apparently, that’s what all the cool kids in the country club set are now doing.
Snoop Dogg recently slammed the remake of Roots for ignoring successful blacks; Dash said trans people should pee in the bushes, rather than have access to public restrooms; Simmons is a fan of Trump and the NeoCons pushing U.S. military empire; and Ben Stein is the former Nixon speechwriter, actor and self-styled free marketeer who supports a globalized labor force with no protections for workers whatsoever.
Gonzales is the attorney general who crafted an infamous legal argument justifying the torture of enemy combatants for the administration of George W. Bush. He recently defended Trump’s bigoted criticism of a Hispanic American judge.
Shkreli is the hedge fun entrepreneur who raised the price of an AIDS-related drug more than 5,500 percent. The idea that real human beings just like himself would die without access to the med just never entered into it for this silver spoon.
Because we’re not wealthy like him. Ergo we are not like him.
These rich hypocrites need to be reminded in the public forum that they represent the worst of America. Not the best. Just like the racist snakes who have slithered out from beneath their rocks to cheer on Trump.
Hence this column.
They need to be told that they are the pitiful friends and relatives who could not handle their good fortune and were consumed by it. Because they’re apparently under the erroneous impression that the fawning behavior of their sycophantic assistants represents the way everyone feels about them.
The common denominator for this nouveau riche garbage seems to be the morally bankrupt idea that they should not be judged by the same standards as other wealthy people by virtue of their membership in traditional victim groups. Well, I’m sorry fuckheads, it doesn’t work that way.
You didn’t get a lifetime pass to Victimville because your parents and grandparents suffered. Instead, you were given a moral obligation to never behave like the tyrants who victimized them.
That means living a righteous life, even while rich, and exhibiting empathy for those less fortunate than yourselves. It means knowing that when you see a Mexican day laborer working their ass off “there but for the grace of God goes my grandma, grandpa, mom or dad.”
Membership in a traditional victim group does not empower you to pursue a lifetime of benefits without burdens or to exploit your fellow Americans with impunity.
My friend‘s elitist garbage percolated out between stories about the latest triumphs of her incredibly pampered and sheltered children. I’ve known them all their lives and they have incredibly high opinions of themselves for someone who has never earned a dollar of their own money or accomplished anything without parental assistance.
Those blinders are one of the curious deformities of a life of invisible privilege. Just like the life Donald Trump has enjoyed.
These pampered kids have progressed through private schools, ballet lessons, and exclusive summer camps over the years. As well as all the other misguided trappings of social status favored by the highly affluent, highly educated and socially tone deaf.
Curiously, they’re just as incredibly ungrateful toward their parents for the opportunities lavished upon them as their parents have been toward their fellow Americans for their own good fortune. In both cases, these breaks are viewed simply as their due as superior life forms.
No more. No less.
I would not be surprised to see the kids thank my friend for her service one day as they head out into the world to fulfill their destiny, by taking expensive trips around the world the rest of us cannot afford. Just as she reflexively thanks the soldiers, sailors and airmen in uniform, and then ignores them after they segue into civilian life.
This elitist thinking represents a new take on the discredited eugenics phislosophy of the early 20th century, which the Nazis used to support their theory of Aryan supremacy. They measured everything from skull circumference to dick shape to create statistical baselines to support their wacky ideas.
Eugenics 2.0 updates this self-serving garbage by using familial wealth as the primary unit of measurement instead. It supports the fiction that a rich kid like Shkreli, who has never done any manual labor or prepared a meal for themselves, is inherently better than a laborer supporting a family back home in rural Mexico where people make $8 a day.
Despite all their privileges, my friend’s kids will always be victims in her eyes strictly because they may not get away with quite as much garbage as their rich white peers. This terrifying possibility hasn’t happened yet but apparently could occur at any time. It hangs over her life of comfort like the coming apocalypse hangs over the faithful.
The privilege of being less accountable as a rich person by virtue of membership in a traditional victim group appears to be the one perk my transformed friend’s entire household is collectively blind to.
She never once said “hey, it’s wrong whenever blacks or Hispanics or people of any race are brutalized by police.” Only that it should never be done to rich blacks. Like her.
Afterall, she has a big house, a Viking stove, a Subzero refrigerator, an Apple laptop, drives a Lexus, shops at Whole Foods, and is at least partly responsible for two fragile children who might dry up and blow away if they were ever forced to exist on the planet without the very best of everything.
She has been completely transformed from the second generation immigrant I grew up with in New York City’s proud working class neighborhoods.
When a police officer pulls over a wealthy black person driving a Mercedes or Lexus in my friend’s privileged world that action now represents the highest form of modern racism and suffering in America today. The less fortunate Eric Garners and Michael Browns of the world only being useful as voiceless props to be rolled out as needed to bolster her allegations of group bias. Much like the blacks strategically placed behind Republican candidates when they speak in public to give the impression of widespread support.
In my friend’s mind, she’s not even rich. She’s middle class, even though she’s pulling down $150,000 a year as a government lawyer. The median income for workers in this nation was $34,084 in 2014, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
That’s another common delusion for the wealthy members of traditional victim groups. The idea that they’re still middle class whenever it suits them, without any of the worries the rest of us deal with every day. Like basic survival, food, rent and medical care.
They think America is still good because it’s still good for them. And anyone who tries to tell them otherwise is either whining or feeling sorry for themselves.
This kind of personal transformation just boggles the mind for me because we’re talking about a person who started out helping the needy in her chosen legal profession and a 30 year friendship rooted in our shared enthusiasm for public service and the greater good.
That was all before she had kids and promptly buried her snout in the Federal treasury, becoming a beneficiary of the largesse of the dysfunctional government she habitually rails against.
My wealthy friend is very critical of that government, but somehow never finds herself in a position to take a principled stand that might interrupt her victorious climb to the top of the federal money tree. When I was in DC in 2014 for the Black Lives Matter march she very much wanted to join me but couldn’t, alas, because of how it might be viewed by her employer.
How convenient. Seems like there’s always a convenient excuse like that for her nowadays.
How much is too much?
She has no idea. I doubt she’s ever even pondered the question in a society obsessed with more, more and more. Just as Daffy Duck once screamed “mine, mine, mine” when he stumbled across a treasure trove with Bugs,
There is no law of diminishing returns in her world.
Greedy hypocrites of this type are a plague on decent people everywhere. Sadly, the one thing they all seem to have in common, besides being nouveau riche, is being parents.
Apparently, no one ever thought to tell these people they needed to define “how much is too much” when they had kids. Before they lost their minds and decided anything that insulates their precious offspring from the real world is justified.
Here’s how you can determine whether you’re one of them. Ask yourself how many innocent people you’d murder or allow to die through inaction if it made your children safer:
c) 11 to 99
d) More than 100.
Personally, I draw the line at “b.” If you chose “c” or “d” you might be clinically insane by virtue of taking a good thing too far. Or you might be Snoop Dogg, Gene Simmons, Donald Trump or my friend. The kind of plastic patriot who uses the kids to substitute egotism for idealism at every turn.
There may be no group on the planet which is more dangerous right now than these rich “victims” who switch back and forth between victim and victimizer as it suits them, and between rich and middle class. The sole goal being to advance themselves at all times.
They never seem to understand that their kids desperately want to see them take a costly principled stand. Just once. If for no other reason than to mix it up.
That their children desperately long to see them match idealistic actions with idealistic principles – win or lose. Instead of rationalizing their way to the easiest and most lucrative path.
My friend also went on at length about how the blackest county in the DC privilege bubble hasn’t done as well economically as all the others, citing it as yet another example of the outrageous racism that plagues her daily existence. This is the kind of knowing lie that allows her to selectively present herself as a victim.
First, by pretending she’s on the same side as the poor and wealthy people in her county who have struggled to make ends meet as her income has soared. The people she won’t send her kids to public school beside.
Second, by implying that some kind of racist conspiracy is maliciously keeping her county down while lifting the whiter areas around it.
The painful truth is that there is a racial component to the gap in income growth. It’s just not malicious and even if it was, she wouldn’t be a victim of it.
The real cause of slower income growth in her county is job security.
The African American community places a premium on civil service jobs. They pay well and are difficult to lose, but the money doesn’t go up as precipitously as it does for the federal contractors in the private sector. Especially those in the defense industry.
Civil service compensation also doesn’t go down as spectacularly. Which means that the lost opportunity costs civil servants endure when the economy is booming are recouped during hard times when they’re insulated from the financial instability the rest of us must cope with,
That’s the trade off for the highest job security on Planet Earth.
Counties in the DC Metro area with a greater percentage of civil service employees are going to see more modest fluctuations in household income in both directions. To the extent there’s a racial component to that dynamic, it’s a function of black people placing a higher premium on job security.
That thinking makes them smart and fortunate. Not victims.
Yes, there’s a disparity, but it’s not something being foisted upon those lucky enough to work for the federal government in the DC metro area. Especially the wealthy blacks like my friend who only claim their race when it’s beneficial to them.
The bigger question is how wealthy Americans of all backgrounds in the DC privilege bubble can be so willfully blind to the high price their largesse imposes on the rest of the nation. The places they so charmingly refer to now as “Flyover Country,” “Main Street” and “The Rust Belt.” Forgotten places that were once just as American as they were.
The same monied interests that are sucking the federal teats dry and making the DC regional economy boom are destroying job security in the private sector elsewhere and turning the poor and middle class into debt slaves.
But never mind what’s happening to the so-called “losers” in the rest of the country, my friend seemed to say. Let’s talk about the needs of winners like me some more.
I was at a loss for words repeatedly during this stunning convo. First because I used to treasure this person’s friendship and second because I have been raised to expect better from my African American neighbors, and my Hispanic Americans, and my fellow Jews. I guess I always profiled the members of those traditional victim groups for compassion and empathy.
I recognize that the headlines and content of this column are jarring. We don’t see this kind of thing in our country very often. Just as we didn’t use to hear the kind of elitist poison that now spills forth daily from the Stacey Dashes and Gene Simmons of the world.
The key takeaway for us all from this little verbal fracas should be that the normal rules don’t apply to such elites, because they’re special. Right?
They need to remember that the next time they read an offensive column like this.
Because being special cuts both ways. Meaning it carries both benefits and burdens. Unlike just being rich.
Where is the fucking Drop Squad when you need it?