I’m flipping through the paper this morning, reading all the local spin on the president-elect, when I come across an article in which a young high school student says that he hopes the new president will “take some of the power away from the upper class.”
I’m not sure exactly why, but this remark brings me up short, and I pause over my bowl of Multi-grain Cheerios, milk dripping from my spoon.
I don’t remember how I viewed the world when I was in high school with any great detail, but I seem to recall having some vague aspirations to become more than I was. I had no idea what I wanted to be – at least once I got over the truck driver/fireman/war hero thing. My parents were, and still are, solidly blue-collar working class folks, but it seemed a given in our family that, no matter how honorable their life was, mine was supposed to be different, better somehow. That may explain why it was always a foregone conclusion that I would go to college, even though I would be the first of my many aunts, uncles, and cousins to do so. And to this day, I remain profoundly grateful for the significant sacrifices my parents made to make that possible.
But all of those dreams were based on the belief in the possibility of becoming more — more educated, more affluent, more mobile and, I suppose, more powerful, at least in the sense that I wouldn’t have to rise at dawn to go to work in the treacherous conditions of the steel mills and coal mines of those who came before me.
This dream was about adding to my future, and not once did it occur to me or my parents that it would depend on subtracting from others, as the young man in the paper seems to hope for.
So, it occurs to me as I finish my cereal, that maybe I’ve been lucky all along. I was born white, male, and with a reasonably good head on my shoulders. And maybe the math that worked for me doesn’t – can’t – work for others. Maybe they need a little subtraction, too.
But then I never was very good at math.
What do you think?