To America’s lower middle class, thank you

Published 1:09 pm Monday, March 30, 2020

After all the nice commentary on whether citizenry (and downtown) can survive without retail, it’s time now to turn our attention to the real, current meanings of our lower and middle classes and of those described in such terms.

Insane as it seems and is, people who make $100,000 or more a year are considered “middle-class,” and often they are struggling to maintain such an income that equips them with homes of their own, though they may be delinquent in two years’ worth of taxes. Still, they’re visibly “middle-class.”

However, the irony that offends is that the inhabitants of this term often make millions a year and call themselves entrepreneurs, owners and such to distinguish themselves from “investors” who can wield an investment income sufficient to make themselves members of a discernible “upper-class.”

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Even so, when we talk middle-class, we are talking about serious money; of the kind that people don’t make or have when they prepare patients’ dinner in hospitals or clean up their rooms, or collect and carry out the garbage, theirs and ours.

Indeed, there are stories of genuinely heroic doctors and nurses, lacking equipment to take care of themselves, distancing themselves when they do get home in a room away from their children. And when these caretakers do get to shop, they will often find store shelves are empty. It’s not that they can’t afford it. It’s just that there’s nothing to buy.

We need to be defiant and angry in their defense. And supportive of their courage and care.

But what of those “lower-classes?” Where is our fawning for them?

Where is our appreciation for the sweepers, and moppers and dusters? For the men on the garbage trucks? And the janitors? For those having to be face-to-face with the rest of us?

In all likelihood, I’ve misunderstood the nuances of plans to give thousands of dollars to men and women who’ve now lost their jobs and their livelihoods. I cheer them and that effort. I support giving them that money. But I also hear there are people too poor to receive such money or aid. They are homeless; they can’t claim money to replace money they’ve never had or earned. They can’t present tax records or filings of past payments. So how can they be helped?

The truth is those who need this help are the least likely ones to get it. This is choosing populations to subsidize and save.

And apart from that injustice, we’re misusing the language.

We applaud our middle-class, the professionals, the people in nice cars and houses, the doctors, the nurses and all civil servants. But what do we say to those who work every day, doing things decidedly not middle-class, who are not middle-class themselves?

I have just heard that Bishop Joseph Kopacz, Bishop of the Diocese of Jackson, has declared there will be no Holy Masses or services until after April 30; no Holy Thursday, no Good Friday, no Easter Sunday.

 

Yolande Robbins is a community columnist for The Vicksburg Post.