by Barry Friedman
Is it Noonan or is Not?
What does it mean to be rich?
Is it just money or is it something else, something warmer, more enveloping, like a man—a lover, a friend, a soulmate, a metaphor, a composite, a … a … someone—who will hold you in his arms in bed while softly reading O’Reilly to you as you “draw” the 2016 battleground states in the hairs of his chest with your index finger.
Is it so, so tough to answer. Yes. Both. Neither. My memories flood over me, dousing me in warmth and tenderness.
I thought of this very germane and important and wrenching question as the insatiable beast of income inequity, once again, broke out in the American derma this week. It is like chronic acne on one’s chest—it burns, it’s unseemly and unsightly, leaving little pit marks between otherwise yearning breasts, both nubile and aging. Speaking of, the argument, the hand-wringing, comes on suddenly and quickly, like a ghost in the middle of the night that makes you thrust forward, grab your "chi-chi” (you may know it as “blankie”), and clutch it to those heaving breasts to quiet the noise and desperation and expectation that burns within. You awake, sweaty, panting, wishing for coffee and to be held … until you realize there’s nothing there.
Still we pick at the blemishes and scabs, drawing blood and mendacity. Income inequality. Nothing there. As the 20-something girls who get all the guys say, “Whatev!”
The discussion, though, inexplicably, still confounds us, even today on this the 60th anniversary of this august Sunday morning talk show table that has faced a nation. What’s funny about the income gap—and by funny, I don’t mean funny in the way our Jewish friends make Reagan-going-to-Bitburg-jokes—but funny in the way wry, clever writers who give their opinions on multiple media platforms masterfully burst this bad, bad metaphorical piñata.
My dear, dear friends, I submit:
Rich people have money; poor people do not.
Rich people regret having to offer medical insurance so middle management can have indiscriminate sex.
Rich people have feelings, too, and hurt when they are mocked, as New York's new mayor did.
(More on this tall man later)
It’s been that way since the 1980s--this new respect for the captains of industry (a love, really)-- as far back as thinking men and women of my party remember.
Wall Street, which this administration fears, is robust, flush, and unapologetic; grocery stores, which this administration loves, are crowded and full of cheeses, frozen pineapple juice, and big bags of off-brand cereal.
It seems the markets are doing well. (See what I did there?)
So, to demonize the rich among us— those who have season tickets to touring Broadway shows and own businesses that make power cords in remote parts of China—but to extoll the poor—those without smart phones and love the biscuits at Red Lobster—is too simple, too cliched … like rejecting a middle aged woman at a bar for one of those aforementioned 20-somethings.
I wonder why we do that.
*Now … an apology. I may have indicated—when I came out and actually said it— that the new mayor of New York Bill de Blasio is a former Sandinista. I was angry because the big schlub with the exotic wife and the son with the foreboding ‘fro dared to question Ronald Reagan’s policy in Nicaragua, a policy I helped articulate while watching the revolution. Well, of course, he isn’t—not any more than the president is a former Kenyan warlord coming to enslave our first borns and bed our women. So … I’m sorry. I love language and putting people and places together, but I erred in my linking verb. After all, I am no Dowd. I am no Brooks. I am no Friedman.
How I yearn to be.
How I weep that I am not.
Yet I am rich.