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I heard it again on Face the Nation Sunday — both Nancy Pelosi and Bob Scheifer used the term “middle class” in speaking about middle income Americans. Come on! This is America, where we cherish the ability, or at least the potential, for people to move up through the income strata, and not be forever bound by a social “class” structure. Yet our politicians and news media, a the highest levels, refuse to align their semantics with American ideals. Hence, they contribute to perpetuating the premise that we are bound to social “classes” in the United States.
I wrote about this semantic phenomenon at some length in my blog on September 23 last year. There are plenty of “lower income” people who are anything but “lower class.” They may have degrees, creativity or just a work ethic that gives them potential for social mobility, and not everyone values mere economic mobility in the same way. And there are certainly the “upper income” types who are anything but “upper class,” eg. the Trumps of the world. As for those of us at various levels of “middle income,” we are certainly not bound to the “middle class.”
Like most of us, I find the endless reporting of the daily habits of British royalty interesting, if not fascinating, but only in the sense of voyeuristic appreciation of celebrities who are famous for being famous. But they are anachronisms of bygone times, and to my mind they have no place in a modern democratic society which allows both social and economic mobility. While yes, there are some people of every economic strata who are “classy,” isn’t it about time we left social caste or classes to history, and take them out of our politics, our news media and our modern lives. It is time our semantics and our realities become better aligned.
NBC-TV’s Today show this morning did a feature on the question of whether French Fries are really French, or from Belgium. Michelle Kosinski reported from Europe, while Willie Geist and the Today team speculated in New York.
The real answer to the question, and the fascinating history of the tantalizing tuber can be found in my 2005 essay, “French Fried: From Monticello to the Moon,” which I researched and presented to the Chicago Literary Club in 2005. Having headed corporate communications for McDonald’s for 15 years, I had a head start on the subject.
You can read the essay online by going to http://www.chilit.org and entering “French Fried” in the search box.
P.S.If you can’t wait to know, the answer is…what we call French Fries probably came from Belgium!
I just returned from the Lake Geneva premiere of the newest and 50th anniversary James Bond film, Skyfall. It was a large crowd of filmgoers, perhaps as many as 25, for a late afternoon showing here. The theater auditorium has a capacity of several hundred, but today’s turnout was as much as 25 times normal.
For regular James Bond fans, the film contains several surprises, some right at the end, involving Q, M, Miss Moneypenny, and even a classic Aston Martin of Bond film fame.
Don’t miss Skyfall. It does…
Outside of Houston, a small town rallied to save a local 100-year-old historic oak tree, and mounted a creative campaign to raise $200,000 in funding, that involved 5 powerful CAT tractors working in Unison to move the living tree 1500 feet, out of the way of a new road. Why does it matter. When an entire community cares that much about saving a living symbol for the future, and mounts an effort as resourceful as that of moving the Endeavor Space Shuttle through the streets of LA, it deserves our notice, and respect.
See the “moving” video. http://youtu.be/BFTj0hM3DHM
If 30% of Americans have passports, but only 3.5% traveled outside the country (not counting Canada and Mexico) last year, is it any wonder that we are a somewhat insular and myopic people when it comes to understanding how we fit in to a world order. Most who do travel abroad find that most people are friendly and hold many of the same values in everyday life as we do in the U.S., unlike what is portrayed in the news media.
Why do the media often focus on the differences with other peoples, rather than the similarities? It’s simple. New media’s normal mode is to report deviances from the social norm. That’s what makes news news.
Even if I wasn’t the husband of a travel agent, with a bit of an appreciation of other peoples and other cultures, I’d say, to the extent you can afford it, invest in travel. The awareness and memories you bring back from travel can and often do pay lifelong dividends.
Political rhetoric in this year’s Presidential election seems to be fixated on use of the term “middle class,” to refer to the vast electorate. We hear the “middle class” drumbeat incessantly. Yet in our supposedly “classless” society, we almost never hear a politician refer to the “lower class” or the “upper class” that would give the phrase “middle class” some relative meaning. What we hear instead are the words “the poor” in place of “lower class” and “the rich” in place of “upper class.” Politicians just can’t seem to articulate that indeed we have a downtrodden unemployed and marginally employed “lower class” that amounts to the social serfs and peasantry of our contemporary American culture, and heaven help us, bookended by a moneyed, uppity “upper class” that is populated with the princelings of our modern society. Why is that?
Well, when we hear “middle class,” I think what is really meant is reference to a middle-income class, not some middle social caste. And often, much or the lower-income class consisting of regularly paid workers are meant to be included in that aspirational, voting ”middle class” moniker. As for the unheard of “upper class,” it suffices politicians to refer to “the rich.” They seem to dare not refer to the well-born and socially prominent, but to those who have accumulated great wealth. Donald Trump is “rich” but hardly “upper class,” except for the trappings of estates, planes, country clubs and starlets that come with vast fortune.
So, that leaves us with a political “middle class” electorate with no acknowledged “lower” and “upper”social bookends to surround it. I think I’ll choke the next time I hear the epithet “middle class” from a politician. Can we get back to a socially classless American society, where we have people with a little or a lot of money, and those of us hard-working managers and professionals struggling somewhere in between?
but Independence Day is the commemoration of the adoption of the Declartion of Independence, on July 4th, 1776, by the Continental Congress.
Tonight on the network news, I listened to esteemed broadcaster Brian Williams refer to “July 4th” and the fireworks and the food, and never mention Independence Day, or its meaning in history and in the present day.
Christmas is on December 25th every year, but its meaning, whether religious or secular, is in its name, not the date.
Independence Day is about where we came from and what our forefathers did, and wouldn’t it be nice, and meaningful, to discuss among ourselves and our children how we are part of that process? That little word, “independence,” is a cornerstone of what makes America and Americans what and who we are. A discussion of how “independence” and “interdependence” relate to us in our contemporary American and global culture might be a productive way to spend “the Fourth of July.” Just saying…
Happy Independence Day!
When censuses and surveys today ask people how often they “dine out,” I don’t think people know what is being asked. While the intent may be to determine how often and where people eat away from home, I think the “dining out” question suggests to many people a white tablecloth “dining” experience. Many Americans, I believe, seldom go to “white tablecloth” restaurants, yet I find it hard, no, impossible to believe, that if you include fast food and all the kinds of eating experiences other than home, even if you exclude food brought from home, that no-one but an invalid does not participate in “dining out” experiences. Statistics should always be suspect, but fallible humans write the surveys. See this article for some good example of what I mean: http://blogs.seattleweekly.com/voracious/2011/10/majority_of_americans_havent_d.php
My major essay on the history of the French Fry, called “French Fried: From Monticello to the Moon,” is full of the lore of the French Fry and its complex and fascinating historical and cultural background. McDonald’s unique relationship to the French Fry is highlighted. You can find the essay at: