I haven’t read Bruce Springsteen’s memoir, “Born to Run,” but I read Dwight Garner’s review of it (NYTimes 9/21/16) and was incredulous about the following declaration: “Mr. Springsteen’s father was a frequently unemployed bus driver among other blue-collar jobs; his mother a legal secretary. They were fairly poor. In their houses - half-houses, more often - there was generally no telephone and little heat.” Bruce grew up in the 50’s and 60’s in the state of N.J. - not in Yoknapatawpha County in the backwoods of Mississippi. In America during the the 50’s, two thirds of all homes had phones and though air conditioning was not yet common, heating certainly was. I won’t quibble about whether or not these statements are partially true but I will say that a boy whose mother was a legal secretary was not poverty-stricken, so why the desire for that illusion? Does it increase his creds as a man of the people to boast that despite being a member of the 1% now, he came from dirt-poor beginnings?
Wealthy democrats in America are often confused and guilt-ridden about their extreme affluence. Hillary Clinton ranted about being in debt when she and Bill left the White House, a statement that was not only a lie but a telling one reflecting her embarrassment about their net worth. Do politicos believe that wealthy people can’t be seen as empathic towards the need of the poor? How strange, considering the billions of dollars that wealthy people have bestowed upon charities to help the needy not to mention to improve parks, libraries, schools, hospitals,, museums, cultural centers - urban environments that exist for all members of society to use and enjoy.
Once upon a time America was super-proud of those super-rich democrats Jack and Jackie Kennedy whose White House was decorated in a manner befitting lifestyles of the rich and famous. No false modesty or embarrassment in the elegant couture of our fashionable first lady or the family compound on Cape Cod - rich meant cultured, sophisticated, articulate and charming. Today, despite the preponderance of so many billionaire democrats - Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Larry Ellison, Larry Page, George Soros, Jeff Bezos, Paul Allen, Oprah, Kanye and Beyonce, David Geffen - to name but a few - wealth is more commonly associated by the media with the Koch Brothers in a pejorative way that implies Republican influence peddling and nefarious finagling. The NY Times, whose advertisers represent the shops frequented by the 1% and merchandise too expensive to labeled, uses its editorial and op ed pages to disparage the very audience at which the ads are pitched.
This is what we know as cognitive dissonance and it should make us squirm with its inherent dishonesty. There was a time when lower middle-class people were proud of being productive workers who didn’t consider themselves poor. Many of them were immigrants who came from the old country where poor meant people without enough to eat, without a house to live in, without the opportunity to work and support a family. Coming to America meant coming to a land of opportunity with free education and the chance to work hard and move on up - if not in one generation, certainly in two. Those people would not have exaggerated their poverty - that would have stripped them of their dignity. Today’s mores allow super-rich celebrities and politicians to tout their humble beginnings as proof of how deserving they are of their subsequent fortunes. I’d prefer reading that Bruce Springsteen was proud of his legal secretary working mom and a father who tried to find work wherever he could. I suspect that any family with enough expendable cash to buy their son a guitar probably had enough for a phone and portable heater. Bruce deserves his fame and fortune by virtue of his creditable talent - no need to flaunt his deprivation of a phone which jars us by ringing so untrue.
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