Tuesday, August 10, 2004

"Trailer Trash"

Several years ago, I had a friend who lived in a trailer park next to the freeway here in Benicia, California. She had just come through a divorce, and lived there with her daughter. One day I stopped by with her ex-husband to pick up his daughter for the weekend. His daughter wasn't ready when we got there -- she was middle-school-age then, and therefore took longer to get ready than probably Jessica Simpson does before a show -- so we had a little time to kill.

We sat near the driveway entrance into the trailer park, and there were a couple of little girls, maybe five or six years old, helping each other making mud pies near us. It was the kind of scene that melts your heart to see, and we watched them and remembered a little bit what it was like to be that young and care free.

Our nostalgia was interrupted by a couple of guys walking past the entrance, who looked in and made some joke about "trailer trash" and about how mom and dad were probably sister and brother.

The two girls flinched, but said nothing, and I could see shame descend like a shroud. The girls stood up and tried to wipe the mud from their hands, but that only made the two guys laugh as they walked away.

The way we treat poor people in this country is shameful. I've heard Jay Leno use the term "trailer trash." This is appalling to me.

I heard an interview with David Brooks, the commentator for the Atlantic Monthly and author of "Bobos in Paradise" and the interviewer asked him about the trend of parents over-scheduling their kids' lives. There has been a much-noted trend of parents in the middle and upper-middle classes keeping their kids busy with soccer, SAT prep, "play dates" and all the rest. The interviewer asked Brooks if he thought that fear (on the part of parents) could explain some of this. Brooks sounded startled by the question, and then dodged it.

I think fear is exactly what is motivating many of these parents, though I think many of them are unaware of the root of this fear. The fear is inspired by how our society treats poor people -- namely, a harsh, merciless judgement that they are lazy and deserve their lot. Think about it: "trailer trash". More about this as this blog matures.

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