Monday, May 02, 2005

Thoughts on class

I had the opportunity to get together on Friday with someone whom I hadn’t seen for 25 years. We met at a local eating establishment and talked for almost three hours. This person happens to have governmental ties and I found much of what he said interesting and it certainly validated many of the fears that I have about the direction of our country. I think much of our ability to pick up a conversation after a quarter of a century stems from having similar socio-economic sensibilities. Neither one of us sees our salvation in materialism and the size of the house we own, or the model of car that we drive. While this person has done well for himself in the field of journalism, his passion for truth and honesty and journalistic integrity haven't appeared to have wavered from when I first met him.

Interestingly, Friday was one of those days that I spent a lot of time thinking about my heritage and where I grew up. This line of thought continued throughout the weekend, when I spent Saturday and Sunday watching my son play baseball at a school where status is very evident.

It all began on Friday morning when I drove to the river that separates the town where I currently live, and the town where I grew up. The Androscoggin River passes between Durham and Lisbon Falls and due to the rains of the past week, the water level was much higher than normal. I took some pictures and actually had some fun with some of the shots that I ended up with. The one of the mills in the distance captures the town where I grew up.

Lisbon Falls, like many former mill towns, is characterized by a certain grittiness that has its roots in the place of the past that were planted by the mill workers from a previous time. Back before textile manufacturing became the first of the manufacturing jobs to be outsourced to cheaper labor markets, towns like Lisbon Falls existed all over Maine and other parts of the U.S.

Growing up in Lisbon Falls probably influences my thinking and my writing as much as anything. Coming from working-class stock and coming of age in a place where community was a reality, have given me a perspective that is never too far from what I write.

I’ve heard it said that class is the elephant in the room that no one talks about. Interestingly, one hears little mention of the term “working-class” in our mainstream media, or any forms of media for that matter. It’s convenient to talk about “the middle-class”, of which everyone thinks they are part of. Yet, the very act of glossing over and ignoring class acts to the detriment of most Americans, in my most humble opinion.

Politicians used to be much more conscious of class and in particular, the Democratic Party, which proudly wore the label of being for the working-class. Over the past 30 years, class-consciousness has all but disappeared from our political discussions. Currently, both parties (some would argue there is only one party in Washington) work to create policies that continue to destroy opportunities for working people and systematically hollow out the remaining middle-class. Whether you want to use middle-class, or working-class as your label, the income gap between the wealthy and all others continues to widen. The current administration continues the pro-business and pro-wealthy policies that Republican administrations have always championed. These types of policies have always benefited the members of the ruling-class to the detriment of the rest of us. What’s remarkably different now however, is that the Democratic Party that gave us the middle-class “miracle” that lasted for nearly 30 years after World War II, has sold its soul and joined forces with the free market crowd. There is no champion of the working-class any longer. As a result, the gains that came out of the FDR era are slowly-but-surely being reversed and we are sinking backwards into a time reminiscent of feudalism.


asfo_del said...

Loved the pictures!

And feudalism seems to be, frighteningly, an increasingly apt comparison, not only in the economic realities but even in people's attitudes. In the middle ages it was a given that those who were already privileged should enjoy even more privilges. Today it seems so many look up to the wealthy and cheer them on (like Trump, for instance (why??)), instead of realizing that the very people they idolize are robbing them blind.

Jim said...


Great comments! You've hit it exactly. Sort of like in England, how the the common folks live vicariously through the royal family (or at least so it seems).

I know I keep referring back to it, but Thomas Frank's book, "What's The Matter With Kansas" touches on this somewhat.

Glad you liked the photos. I had a great time "down by the river" scoping out potential shots.