It has become clear that the United States is in a full-on class war.
I can assure you that it's nothing new. And it's been brewing for decades. The wealthy's low opinion of the rest of us is deep-seated, rampant and passed down from generation to generation.
I know how the upper class really feels about "ordinary" people. I've heard them assert boldly that they think of themselves as the real Americans.
They truly believe they're better than others because they're rich. They also believe they're special because God made them rich.
They think they're more American than the rest of us.
I know these things because I once was one of them.
Join me below the fold to learn more.
When I was 5 years old, my parents divorced. My father went back home to live with his mother and step-father, while I stayed with my mother. But my mother was unable to care for me (much later, she was diagnosed as schizophrenic, which explained a lot), so custody of me was given to my father. My father prioritized golf over family, however, and was largely absent during my formative years. Thus it happened that I went to live with my grandparents.
And my grandparents were rich.
I didn't realize they were rich, of course. They weren't super-rich or anything. They were just wealthy enough to acquire anything they wanted without ever thinking about it; just rich enough to count the seriously rich and powerful among their circle of friends. But I learned hard lessons about the upper class and their general attitudes during the decade I spent with them and their elite friends. In the end, the way they treated their own family and friends in tough times was so shocking that, honestly, the wealthy class' attitudes toward complete strangers in dire straits does not surprise me at all.
My grandfather, actually my father's step-father, had retired from a high position with The Phone Company (there was only one phone company in those days) with a hefty pension. He spent his "retirement" managing a bank, and had also invested in several properties around town. My grandmother had sold off her shares of stock in a well-known national transportation company. She had quite a bit of money all to herself, and loved to shower me with it constantly. I admit that I had become a spoiled rich kid. My grandmother also told me that, when her days on Earth were over, she was leaving me with all she had. That seemed nice.
We lived in a big house in a quiet neighborhood. We had a swimming pool. I had my choice of two bedrooms and a playroom. I had my own cable-equipped TV (a big deal in those days). I had not just my own phone, but my own phone number. I got everything I ever asked for, and never wanted for anything. Life was, I must say, easy. When I was 14, my grandmother suggested that I start thinking about what kind of car I wanted; I would be of legal driving age in two years, she told me, and a young man's choice of first car was something that took much consideration. Not which college to attend. Not what sort of career to pursue. A car. My grandmother was a sweet and loving woman, she really was. But her perspective was limited to her own little priviledged world.
On the backside of our nice neighborhood was a barbed-wire fence. On the other side of the barbed-wire fence was a trailer park. The fence actually ran right across a street that had once passed through both neighborhoods. If one wished to drive from our nice neighborhood to the trailer park just over the hill, one had to drive all the way around town instead of simply taking a left. Looking back, I guess we were living in an early type of gated community. My grandfather didn't want me crossing the fence, didn't want me associating with "those people." I went to school with "those people's" kids, and even though they were technically my neighbors, I never paid much attention to them. They were non-people to me, extras in my movie of life.
My grandparents often went to swanky parties, and frequently dragged me along with them. The function of these parties always escaped me. Everyone was dressed up, as though they were attending a wedding or a prom, even though all they ever seemed to do was drink cocktails and chatter incessantly. I was usually bored out of my skull, but I got to overhear many interesting conversations. They would talk about who to let into the country club or not, judging their worthiness by what kinds of car they drove or what they did for a living ("But he's a chiropractor, dear, not a real doctor. If we let him in, then who's next? Nurses?"). Anyone who wasn't white and Christian was completely out of the running. They would gossip about who was cheating with/on whom, who was "in" and who was "out," whether so-and-so's new facelift looked good or not, their plans for adding onto their already-sprawling houses in the spring, where they were going to "summer" (only the rich use "summer" as a verb), and always the next things they were going to buy, buy, buy: a new car, a new computer or portable phone (expensive items then). Every one of them was obsessed with outdoing everyone else--"keeping up with the Joneses," my grandmother called it.
My grandparents' wealthy friends would often drop by our house. Some of them didn't even knock; they just walked right in. As far as I could tell, all they wanted to do was brag about themselves: how successful they were, how successful their kids were, and so on. And still, they would cast judgments and aspersions on others who weren't as successful. One of our close friends was a local real estate investor, and at this time she was involved in tearing out the town's "bad neighborhood" (you know, where all the black people lived) and putting a sprawling shopping mall in its place. Eventually, she got her way. We even attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The underlying presumption with these people was always that God liked them better, since He had bestowed the Good Life upon them. Our local Baptist and Methodist churches reinforced this attitude as well: the preachers insisted that the rich deserved to be rich because they were worthier, holier, better--never acknowledging that the Bible warns that the love of money is the root of all evil. And as members of the Chosen Elite, they practically could do no wrong.
I hung out with the other rich kids. Their parents were doctors, surgeons, auto dealers, realtors, lawyers and CEOs. Some of them went to a nearby private "academy." All their mothers stayed at home. A few of them actually had staff, whom they treated with contempt. And the kids' attitudes could be described with one single word: entitled. I remember a number of them explaining how we were better than other people. "We're the real Americans," they said. "Other people can only do what we let them do, because we have the most money. And that means the world is ours to with as we please." I knew their elitist attitudes had been passed down from their parents, because their parents were saying the same thing.
As soon as one of them was old enough to drive (a shiny new cherry-red Mercedes convertible...for a teenager), we would spend weekends at one lake cabin or another, some of which were actually second houses. With no adults around, we were free to indulge in whatever self-absorbed hedonistic activities we wished. There was lots of booze, drugs and sex. We had not a care in the world, other than wearing the proper clothes.
My grandmother died during an afternoon nap just before I turned 16. I was about to learn what our family and friends were really like. That very evening, friends and family started showing up at our house...and began taking things they felt my grandmother would "want them to have." My grandfather was in shock, and my father was out drinking by the pool; neither seemed to realize what was happening. I watched cousins and in-laws walk out with diamond rings, pricey necklaces, broaches and other jewelry--anything they could carry in a purse or pocket. My own crazy mother showed up and walked off with most of my grandmother's antique silver. Some came back later and drove off with furniture. These people had become carrion eaters, picking over the dead carcass of my grandmother, never seeming to understand our immediate grief. They were soulless, beady-eyed vultures.
One of the people who came out of the woodwork after my grandmother died was an old flame of my grandfather's. The first time I met her, I didn't trust her. (Later, I learned a word to describe her: gold-digger.) During this time, I was still trying to find my grandmother's will--the one in which she supposedly left everything to me. I never found it. My grandfather denied it ever existed. I'll never know for sure.
A few months after we buried my grandmother, my grandfather insisted that I go off for a week of summer Methodist church camp. I had never gone before, so it seemed a little odd to me. It wasn't like I had any choice, so off I went. A week later, I returned to the church parking lot only to find no one there to pick me up. I called a friend to come get me, and he gave me a ride home. I went up the steps of our house, crossed the front porch, tried the door and found it locked. My key wouldn't work either; the locks had been changed. It was the days before cell phones, so I sat on the steps and waited. Eventually, my father showed up and told me something unbelievable: while I was away, my grandfather had sold the house--and everything in it--and had run off to Florida to spend all of his money on his new girlfriend. This left my father (who had either been tricked himself or hadn't been paying attention, as usual) and myself essentially penniless.
But my dad had found us a new place to live...in the trailer park on the other side of the barbed-wire fence. Our trailer was pre-furnished, infested with giant cockroaches and, we soon discovered, sat upon a huge ant colony. I had gone from having everything to having nothing. All I had left to my name was what I had taken to church camp: some golf shirts, some shorts, socks, undies, and a bathing suit. And that was it. I literally had nothing else.
I remember going back to my old neighborhood a short while later and seeing the family who now lived in our old house. They were the children and grandchildren of our next-door neighbors. One of the kids was riding my bike. They were playing with my toys. It was completely surreal.
After moving to the trailer park, my old friends suddenly stopped talking to me. They would hang up on me when I called. They would turn their backs to me when I approached and whisper to each other when I walked away. I no longer got invited to the lake cabin parties. Just a few months ago, I had been one of them. Now I had become persona non grata. To them, I no longer existed. This betrayal absolutely shattered me.
But in that trailer park, among "those people" I had ignored and my grandfather so despised, I discovered the real world. I met people who worked hard and loved their families. I found that the kids in the trailer park didn't judge me because I used to be rich. They didn't judge me because I couldn't afford to buy new clothes. I made fast friends there; good friends, true friends who stuck by me no matter what. We didn't need a lake cabin to have a good time. And, most surprising of all, I learned that the people on the other side of the fence were inexplicably happier. This was the real America: people who still chased their dreams instead of living in one.
Finally, I came to understand the truth: the wealthy only look out for themselves. They do not care about anybody else, as long as they remain safe and comfortable. They will turn on anyone in a heartbeat, even their own families, if it means that they can acquire more. They are selfish. They are greedy. They are evil.
And they must be stopped.
We must fight these rich bastards with everything we have. They don't give a rat's ass about any of us--I know, because I've been there and heard them say it. Today's wealthy elite--the very same generation of spoiled, entitled rich kids I used to hang with--have not changed. They're still obsessed with acquiring more, still feeling entitled to priviledge and special treatment, still taking things from others because they think we'd "want them to," still arrogantly dismissive of those who don't have money or power, still firmly believing that God made them rich because they're special, still turning their backs on those who are in need, still insisting that the wealthy deserve more even though they already have most.
That's the most un-American attitude I can think of.