RICH OR POOR, WE EACH WANT MORE

8 Mar

RICH OR POOR, WE EACH WANT MORE

Louise Annarino

March 8, 2012

 

When I attended the University of Cincinnati College of Law 1st year law students were not permitted to work; they had to devote full time to their studies. The Assoc. Dean granted me “special permission” to work. It was the only way I could afford to pay tuition,rent etc. Books were not a problem. I simply bought them as soon as they appeared on the shelves, read them within the 1st ten days of classes and returned them for full refund, after outlining each chapter. One does what one must. Most students had parental or spousal help. Those whose parents were poor, who were unmarried and in debt from undergraduate school were on our own, accumulating even more debt, but rich in dreams.

 

I first worked for the university in a federally subsidized job until funds were cut off. Next I worked for the I.R.S., driving to its Kentucky warehouse, 30 minutes south of Cincinnati off I-75, for a 3p.m. to 1a.m. shift. When the shift was extended to 3 a.m. it became even more difficult to tay awake through my 8 a.m.- 1p.m. classes. One morning, as I was leaving for my Saturday 9 a.m- 3 p.m. shift, my back went into spasms after bending over to pick up a carton of yogurt for my lunch. I could not stand upright. The pain was too severe.

 

After examining me my doctor asked with whom I was so angry that I wanted to hit him. The muscles one would use to strike out at someone or something were clenched tight. I explained my landlord had warned me that he would evict me should I entertain my African-American boyfriend in the future. Since he lived in Columbus and we both worked so many hours we rarely saw one another. During his recent and first visit, I was in Kentucky working most of the time. Since my landlord lived above me (I rented the lower level of his home), he knew who my few guests were. I wanted to hit my landlord, but knew I could not. Cheap apartments within walking distance of school were nearly impossible to find, especially after the semester started. I walked upright and pain free out of the doctor’s office after, protecting himself with a large pillow, he encouraged me to hit him as hard as I could, imaging he was my landlord. Not speaking out, not striking out, against injustice and racism is harmful. It is too high a price to pay.

 

But this was not the most significant discussion I had with the doctor. When he listened to my frustrations, he asked what I thought was a strange question, “Why do you hate money?” I assured him I did not. He assured me that anyone who worked so hard as I did, with the level of education and intelligence I had, should not be poor. Therefore he explained I was avoiding becoming rich. The proverbial light bulb opened my vision into my motives and I realized he was right. Growing up, I saw how disinterested persons of wealth were in my family and my neighbors in the south side of town near the railroad tracks. I saw how the wealthiest people in town disdained my neighbors and my neighborhood. I knew first hand how difficult it was to escape poverty, as rich people grasped all they could to keep it from my grasp, doling out pennies they earned off my labor and keeping rolls of dollars for themselves. I did not want to be like them. The doctor offered a simple solution. Don’t. Get rich and give it all away. From that moment on it became a goal to give away all I could earn.

 

I no longer dislike rich people. I put aside my prejudice that day in the doctor’s office, and opened my heart to many wonderful rich people. Not all rich people are greedy. Most are kind-hearted. Most are generous with their time and money. Our cities would not be able to survive without their generosity. But the rift between rich and poor is widening and the fear each group has of the other is less easy to control. This is a situation ripe for political manipulation. We see it every day.

 

Some Democrats mistrust President Obama because he works so closely with bankers, brokers, and business leaders. Some Republicans mistrust President Obama because he works so closely with Acorn, Planned Parenthood, and the NAACP. Palestinian supporters mistrust him when he has discussions with AIPAC; and Israel’s supporters mistrust him when he holds discussions with Arab leaders. It goes on and on. The truth is, he works with everyone who offers ideas to build an America of future promise. How can any problem be solved without talking to all parties to a solution? Must we continually let our fears and prejudices impede pragmatic and lasting outcomes? Are we so blind to the interest of others that we can no longer see our own interest? That is where I once was, and it nearly brought me to my knees. The doctor was right. I needed to  speak out and fight for my interest, but without disparaging those who had already figured that out. Rich people. So, stop blaming President Obama for opening our eyes to uncomfortable truths. Poor people need rich people. Rich people need poor people. America needs each of us, working together.President Obama represents all Americans, rich and poor. He should work closely with both. Thank you Mr. President. Do not bow before the weight of our prejudice. We cannot pile that on your shoulders. We need to carry it ourselves , or discard it and stand tall, ready to solve this nation’s problems alongside you.

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