Thursday, May 22, 2008

Middle Class Upbringings

I was brought up solidly middle class. Not upper-middle by any stretch - we got one new pair of 'school shoes' every year. We did our school clothes shopping at Bradlee's (the less trendy version of Target). We did have meat often as my mother never skimped on food - but I was not allowed to try things like mushrooms or pate as they were expensive and she was afraid we'd like them. We did not have to finish every morsel on our plate, but we were also not allowed to refuse to eat something unless we'd at least tried it. We always had nice homes as my parents always chose where we'd live based on the public school systems (we moved often). The best schools were always in the weathiest suburbs, so we lived in nice areas and had good homes. I did not have all the 'right' clothes, but I didn't really know it until we moved to the Boston area and I started high school. My brother and I shared a hand-me-down car when we were old enough to drive (I got it first, being the oldest). It was expected that I'd go to college directly out of high school and that I'd go to the best school I got into, regardless of price. That was never questioned, even once. Looking back, I know that things changed a lot my senior year in high school. My father had a bit of a 'windfall' in terms of his career and our discressionary spending drastically changed almost overnight. I don't think the lifestyle change really had much impact on me as I was basically already out of the house and in college before it's affects were felt. My younger brother, on the other hand, had some serious issues with 'entitlement'. But that is neither here nor there - he's since grown signficantly (as have I). Anyway, my point to this little trip down memory lane is to put a little thought into my attitude. I've always leaned a bit towards the republican bent (though I've never committed to either party and have often voted democratic). I think my reasoning comes from my upbringing, though in retrospect, I'm not sure where (hence the little trip down memory lane above). I've always believed in capitalism, but yet questioned the sanity of it. How could we continue to exploit the environment and our natural resources the way we do without consequence? And yet, don't make me give up the things I've worked so bloody hard for...I busted my ass to get where I am, don't expect me to share that with joe blow down the street who may not have bothered to get an education. I think this is why I've always had trouble expressing my political opinions. They are conflicted! In the future, society will only work if we work together. I get that and I'm good on a team. BUT, I also play by the 'rules' and I expect others to as well. I've always shied away from 'community' efforts because there is ALWAYS someone who doesn't pull his or her own weight. Why should I let them hang on? I'm better off fending for myself, right? Well, no, not likely. I believe in helping others, but I also believe in the importance of the ability to better oneself if one is willing to work for it. Do I have a 'killer' instinct? Not really. But do I have the 'charity' gene? Sometimes I wonder. Ugh - this is why I stress about the future. Is my confusion related to my upbringing? I don't have a problem with being 'poor'. I have no issue with working for what I have and living with very little. I DO have issue with working for what I have and then giving it away to help the next person if that person isn't also working as they should. The infirm? No problem. Children? Again, no problem. The lazy? BIG problem. But how does one draw the line and where does that line need to go???

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