Saturday, July 6, 2013

You don't know how good you've got it, Middle Class America.

Reflections from a Week in Culture Shock


Yeah, you have some crime.  But you don't need bars on your windows, a wall around your house, and a private security company to keep you safe.  You can walk down the street with a purse on your arm and not worry about it being grabbed by someone in a moving car.  You can leave chairs on the sidewalk on the 4th of July, and no one takes them.  

You can worship who you want, when you want, and where you want.  You can even convert to a different religion if you want to, and practically no one will care.  You certainly won't be arrested for it.

Your stores are stuffed with food, and never run out.  If they happen to run out of the exact flavor of cream cheese that you want, there are big apologies, and you just go to a different store.  You even are given the luxury of worrying about whether or not something is "organic" or "genetically modified."  And if you are down on your luck, there are thousands of churches or food banks or welfare offices ready and waiting to pass out food for free.

When a woman goes into labor, sometimes you worry about the baby, but you hardly ever worry about the mom.  A baby that dies in childbirth is an epic tragedy (as it should be), so much so that even strangers on Facebook send you their condolences.  Losing a child (or two, or three) is not normal life for you.  You don't think about how you're just happy to have survived childbirth yourself. 

You have clean drinking water that comes out of every tap in your house.  You don't have to walk five miles to find water that's full of cholera.  In fact, you are even given the luxury of not liking the taste of that water, so you spend your money on water in bottles. 

Your thrift stores are given so many of your cast-off clothes that they are only able to sell a small portion.  Your family lives in an entire house, not just one room in a house.  And even then, you have to rent a storage unit because you can't fit all of your stuff into it.

Your children's childhoods are valued.  You have parks everywhere with colorful slides and Children's Museums and kids' menus at restaurants and swimming pools in your backyard.  They are not expected, or needed, to haul water or dig farms when they are six years old. 

It is assumed your children will be part of the 7% of the world with a college degree.  They have one teacher to 30 children, instead of one teacher to 100 children.  They have books and markers and colorful room decorations.  Each child has his own desk with his name on it, instead of three children crammed onto one desk.  This education is free, and if you are not satisfied with it, you are given the freedom to educate them yourself, at home--and you won't be arrested for it.

If your child is born with a cleft pallet, there is no question of whether it will be fixed.  You don't worry about polio or malaria or cholera.  You have a fair amount of confidence that your child will live until adulthood.  If your child is bit by a snake or breaks a leg, you call a number and an emergency vehicle will be at your door in five minutes.  You don't have to worry about how you will get your child (without a car) to a hospital (which may or may not have medicine that day) 50 miles away.

If you are pulled over by police, you are not expected to bribe them.  Most of the time, you believe that the police are actually there to serve you and protect you, not rob you or rape you.  If your house catches on fire, you are not forced to stand and watch it burn; you simply call a number and a fire truck will be there in five minutes. 

For the most part, you know your taxes are not lining the pockets of your politicians.  You get roads and schools and libraries.  It is not an assumption that your elections are rigged, and the losing party will not start a riot that kills hundreds of people.  Your government has checks and balances, and you are not ruled by a ruthless dictator who feeds people to his crocodiles for fun.

Middle Class America, I know your lives aren't perfect. 

But to whom much has been given, much will be expected. 

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