Thursday, October 4, 2012

Debate afternoon in America

Re-watching (well, listening into) a replay of the first Presidential debate since a couple “Facts of Life” reruns took precedent last night and I'm trying to determine my “class.” What defines middle class (or sub groupings of “low” and “high” and “working") in America in 2012? It's such a big political sound bite. Is it defined as money, education, values, size of household? Conspicuous consumption and the reason IKEA exists?

So I did what any American would do. I Googled it (off topic and ironic, I came across an article here about how Google is dumbing us down) and found a quote…

“Everyone wants to believe they are middle class. But this eagerness has led the definition to be stretched like a bungee cord, used to defend/attack/describe everything. The Drum Major Institute places the range for middle class at individuals making between $25,000 and $100,000 a year. Ah yes, there's a group of people bound to run into each other while house-hunting.”

Cheeky. And I still don’t have a solid definition, how one gets into the middle, how much cash and how many children to bring. But I know learning is key to ongoing financial security (oxymoron or not) which surely must fund "class." What we learn in school, kindergarten on, opens the mind to endless and seemingly crazy possibilities. I know because when I moved out on my own 17, even after a childhood with parents who hit more than parented and drank to forget how unhappy they were that they chose each other and one nasty divorce and an eventual new blended family moving from rental to rental before we were evicted and cars repossessed in the middle of the night (plural) and mostly being ignored, I believed there was nothing I couldn’t find a way to do. I had to because it was out there.

My first job post high school was on a factory assembly line, on the night shift so I could take one or two exploratory interest classes at the community college, paid out of pocket. But I knew I had to go to college, not Grade 13, so I stapled an almost good check for $50 to an application and wrote an earnest essay and was accepted without means or method or manner to pay. So I figured out how and found as I did it took me along with it like being caught up in a snowball rolling down hill. And aside from a couple small (and surprise) grants and $500 I begged off my Dad to buy books, five years later I had a bachelors degree and thousands and thousands of dollars in student loans. That I’d pay back. Eventually. I'd figure it out how because my history told me I would.

 “…a trickle-down approach has government thinking it can do a better job than free people pursuing their dreams.”

That thinking is off because no one—no one—will ever work harder for you than you will. My desire to 1) not be my mother and reliant on men or 2) work an assembly line doing the same job for the same pay as a 17-year-old dreamer who talked endlessly about her love of words and Duran Duran stoked an inner fire that, even when it dimmed or blew nearly out at times, never failed me. Even during the months financial aid fell through and I put night classes on a Visa card to retain enrollment status, and for every time I changed clothes in the Chick-fil-A bathroom between the mostly full time job and mostly full time course schedule.

I understood then and I understand now, to get a fair share I must do a fair share. So do we all. And although I’m certain the rules have changed in the 100 years since I put myself through university, the idea and the ideal is the same. I wanted more, selfishly, for myself. I wanted a future of possibility. I did my share to get my fair share.

And I got even more.

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