Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Broke Is Beautiful

All during my first pregnancy I assumed I'd have an outside
job. Why? That's what people do. Why? Well you need two incomes to
support a family. During my whole pregnancy no one asked me if I'd
stay home. Everyone asked how many months
--months mind you--I'd take to bond with my baby before I returned to
the work world.
That was before I went through sixteen hours of labor and an
emergency c section. All bets were off. I fell head over heels in
love more absolutely, breathtakingly, and totally than I'd ever
thought possible. I said to my husband, "I don't want to leave her."
He said, "I don't want you to."
At about the same time a friend gave birth to her first child.
She, too, wanted to stay home. Her husband said that wasn't an
option. He needed to keep experiencing the life style he'd grown used
to--one that required two incomes.
Laura Lee, author of Broke Is Beautiful: Living and Loving The
Cash-Strapped Life, would be with Gene on this. She begins her book
with a Bible quote, "For the love of money is the root of all evil:
which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and
pierced themselves through with many sorrows." Her premise flows from
this. America's media enabled, unabated materialism has left many
pierced with many sorrows and those of us not swept up by the current
more well off than popular opinion would have you believe.
Early in our nation's history we prided ourselves on social
equality and class mobility--a break from older nations' social
stratification. Ironically, while we still pay lip service to this
ideal, we have veered drastically from it in practice. When we
measure income equality America comes in dead last. And obstacles
ranging from lack of prenatal care to the high cost of college keep
the children of the poorest in the 'hood.
We are still taught the myth. We still buy into it. "Yet even
if they are on the wrong side of an economic boom, most Americans
don't mind too much, because they plan to move up the social ladder."
This idea that economic mobility is still viable has a very dark
side. If you aren't participating in this social mobility--don't
blame anyone but yourself.
America has changed its definition of responsibility. Kennedy
asked those with means to ask what they could do for their nation.
LBJ was all about the Great Society. There was a model of
interdependence, of the more fortunate lending a hand to those in
need. Now responsibility means taking taking care of yourself, no
matter how meager your resources are, rather than asking for help.
All isn't peaches and cream for those at the top, living the new
American dream. Their possessions may own them rather than the other
way around. Think working so hard to own a mansion in an upscale neigh-
borhood you don't have time to enjoy your home. There's always
something newer and better. Keeping up with the Jonses may deprive
those able to tread economic water of the sweeter intangibles like
chances to relax and enjoy life, real friendships, and time with their
children in those all too short growing up years.
Lee points out in her last chapter that we aren't as badly off
as we tend to think we are. If you were able to use a flush toilet
this morning you're doing better than one million of your fellow world
citizens. America's poverty line income puts one in the top 13% money
wise globally.
If you're having trouble keeping afloat and feeling good about
yourself in today's economy, if you wonder whether the new American
consumer dream is all it's cracked up to be, or if you want to look at
money in a new way, Broke Is Beautiful is a must read. Get your
library to buy it. You'll be doing a mitzvah for many of your fellow
On a personal note: I'm starting my new year with a resolution for
writing more, finishing my first book length manuscript.
A great big shout out goes out to all who know what's really important
in life and all who are willing to fight for economic justice.

Sent from my iPod

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