Monday, February 14, 2005

It's Not Exactly Class Warfare

by Alfred Ingram
“As much as I agree with Paul Krugman's assessment of Bush's motives. What's going on isn't exactly class warfare. Unfortunately, people have to be believed to be heard. You have to believe people have status. You have to see them as players in the game, before you can see them as an enemy. ”

Professor Yoshi Tsurami (as of last fall at C.U.N.Y) vividly remembers George Bush at Harvard business School in 1973, because he was always making statements denouncing the New Deal as socialist, calling the S.E.C. an impediment to business, calling the civil rights movement “socialist/communist” and declaring that “people are poor because they're lazy.” An aide (Dan Bartlett) denied he ever made those statements, but those type of statements were at one time surrounded him like the air he breathed. In the 1960's they were totally typical of the conservative wing of his social class.

How would I know? I got to hear it over and over again, not in the classrooms, but in the dorms, at meals in the commons, at YAF (Young Americans for Freedom) meetings, at Phillips Academy in Andover Massachusetts. What I don't know is if he picked up these ideas at Andover or, like other very well off conservative kids, brought them from home. I have a hard time believing that his father or mother taught anything close to this.

Can you imagine people who'd never labored in their lives being absolutely convinced that people who did back-breaking work were lazy? Can you seriously envision people who could call FDR a “traitor to his class,” with a straight face. Can you imagine a person who would tell an African-American that the basic problem of black people was their inability to handle hard work (present company exluded), then complain because a farmer who'd traded them firewood (the older dorms had fireplaces) had him working like a nigger.

How did I get in a position where they felt safe making statements like that in front of me? It was a position I took in a debate on the war. The war in Viet Nam. I was firmly anti-communist. I had a cousin flying missions in Viet Nam. There were, though there should have been, no questions about the validity of the Gulf of Tonkin incident. The opposition argued an emotional position, I argued from history. The facts as we knew them favored my position and I demolished the antiwar proposition.

I think I was something of an anomaly to them. They never understood how I could agree on some things, and totally disagree with them on others. In fact, their positons were as emotionally based as the other sides. When the facts contradicted them, they ignored the facts. Confronted with anything that differed from their beliefs, they'd say “You're making that up.” The point is that the rest of us aren't quite real to Mr. Bush. Reality isn't quite real to Mr. Bush. He's fond of us, but he and people like him are going to fix America. They're goingto make us more self-reliant. Teach us not to go to the doctor so often. They know better after all, and if things don't work out, well they tried.

con·cept: It's Not Exactly Class Warfare