After taking care of business this morning I was pleasantly surprised to find my way to a blog article courtesy of a friend on Facebook that made me feel less like an alien with mental disorders. This is the article 10 Things Most Americans Don’t Know About America. After I read this my first thought was Thank the Gods! I’m not alone in my beliefs. Now before anyone starts slinging arrows or rotten fruit in my direction let me share a few things with you.
I’m a 44-year-old struggling writer, a solitary pagan woman of German, English, Irish, and Cherokee descent. I was raised Christian despite considering myself pagan now. Part of my maternal side of the family has been in the United States since 1798 (that would be the Irish) and the other part (the Native American) as I love to point out was here before those damn Pilgrims hit Plymouth Rock. As far as my paternal side I don’t have a solid clue when they arrived, but I do know they’ve been here since before the Civil War. My dad used to brag about his relation to the Hatfields and the McCoys which to be honest–well I told him that wasn’t something you really wanted to brag about if you know your history. I can’t say it was true, but then who knows. *shrugs* The point being is my family has been in the US since it was a wee country and before.
My family was raised in what would be considered poverty in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains in South-Central Missouri smack in the middle of the Bible Belt. We had no indoor plumbing, no running water, and I shared a bedroom with two brothers until I was 13 years old. A cast iron pot belly stove heated our house in winter and our idea of air conditioning was opening up all the windows, plugging in the old 20-in box fan and praying the fuse box wouldn’t overload. It’s amused me to talk about my childhood over the past 26 years since I moved to St. Louis. Why you might ask? I’ve been accused of lying by more than one person because as a co-worker once said People don’t live like that anymore? Did you grow up in the 19th century? My reply to that was Have you ever lived anywhere, but the city? And by the way–go tell that to the people living in poverty in the Appalachians, Ozarks, etc…
Okay, you get the gist of my point I hope. As American’s we generally live in a bubble or box (whichever you wish to choose) of our own making. I’m not saying we all do, but many of us do. Whatever kind of life we have growing up (whether wealthy or content upper middle class) we believe everyone has. An example was when I pissed off a boss’ wife at a job I had ten years ago. She came in a couple of times a week (out of boredom mainly) to do some filing and mailings. She considered this working and because no one else had the balls to tell her the truth, she became horrified when I did. She was complaining about needing to find a good cleaning service for her house. I offered to clean her house (more out of jest than anything else truthfully). The look of horror on her face irritated the shit out of me. The following comment made it even worse. Why would you want to do that? My reply? For the money, unless of course you’d like to pay my bills for me. Her eyes grew as huge as saucers and then she followed up with: You’re better than that. Why would anyone want to clean toilets and wash windows for a living?
At this point I couldn’t abide her ignorance for one more second. I proceeded to tell her I’d been working since I was 15 years old and I’d done everything from painting and stripping floors to cleaning septic tanks and washing dishes. And then I said something that made the entire office come to a stand still. You wouldn’t understand. You’ve never wanted for a thing in your life–you were born with a silver spoon in your mouth. My co-workers were damn sure I was fired as soon as the words slipped past my lips. I wasn’t though. Actually, I amused the hell out of her husband (the co-president of the company her father had created 80 years before) when I put her in her place. He was much like me. He’d grown up in lower middle class family, on the verge of poverty, and had fought for everything he’d gotten in life. His wife had everything handed to her from the moment she could walk and talk. Although, I embarrassed her, she ended up respecting me for being upfront with her. I didn’t say what I did because of jealousy or out of a need to embarrass her I simply informed her (a girl 20 years her junior) that she shouldn’t assume the entire world had the same advantages she’d had as a child and adult. The truth hurts people especially when it rips you from that perfect little bubble you’ve constructed so carefully for yourself.
My point is not everyone in America is created equal no matter how much we try to convince ourselves they are. Poverty is not blind to race, religion, or sexual orientation. Nor is it particular about who it decides to pounce on at any given moment. Some of us never rise far above our roots and society chooses to ignore what they have no desire to acknowledge or they mock that which they have no desire to understand. We as a country just add another layer to the walls of our box or another layer of glaze to that rose-colored bubble we’ve been in. Ignorance is not bliss folks, it’s simply ignorance.
Life isn’t easy and despite the advantages I know we have as Americans we’ve become complacent. Things have changed a great deal since I was a child; some for the better and others for the worst. Control which we like to pride ourselves in is nothing except an illusion. One person’s experiences are often far removed from the next person and yet we as a country feel we can understand everything without educating ourselves. We have a self-importance to us we really need to reconsider.
What I hope for my country, my home, is that we start to open our eyes and see the truth of what we’ve become. People like to blame their parents, so-called friends, neighbors, and politicians yet never once do we look in the mirror. We all hold some part of blame for how our world is. We can’t control the decisions of others, but we sure in the hell can control our own decisions. Blame is easy when we point that comical foam finger anywhere, but at ourselves.
Just some food for thought.