Leftist commentary from a mouthy bitch
Not in the way in which you ordinarily think of the word. Rather, I have absolutely no patience for those people who have no idea what it’s like to be poor. Who, when you say something like, “I can’t go out tonight, my car has a flat and I need a new tire,” immediately say, “So, go buy one” as if the thought merely hadn’t occured to you. Instead, of, say, realizing that just maybe you can’t afford that tire until payday, a week from now. And even then, it’s going to be a choice between new tire and fresh groceries. Is the tire really worth eating ramen for two weeks? Can you deal with hiking the mile and a half to the nearest bus stop because you don’t live somewhere with convenient access to mass transit? Will your work be pissed off at you for arriving all sweaty every morning?
We didn’t have much money when I was a kid. And running up huge hospital bills for a kindergarten aged case of pneumonia (I have about a month long gap in my five-year old memories because I was so sick) and a week spent in an oxygen tent when I was 9 due to the onset of severe asthma, didn’t help. The house my folks bought cost $10,000 in 1970, and it came with a fully stocked “bomb shelter.” We ate out of that bomb shelter until we left to go to Idaho. Dad was telling stories about how when his “Engineers Club” went to the hot dog factory, once everyone else saw how the hot dogs were made, they didn’t want the free packages that they got at the end of the tour. Dad took all of them, because free food was free food.
I’ve had a couple of encounters, since beginning my job here at the University, that have really underlined the fact that most people who live with money really, honestly don’t realize that not everyone, particularly caucasian everyone, has money.
A lot of the kids in the dental school are legacies, meaning that they are becoming a dentist because Dad was a dentist, and probably Grandpa was a dentist. Sometimes Mom was a dentist, but usually Dad was the dentist and Mom was a Dental Assistant or Hygeinist. The majority of them do not have student loans they’ll have to repay, because their parents are paying for their schooling, and always have. They’ve never not had health insurance. Mom and Dad bought them a good car for when they went away to school so they wouldn’t have to worry so much.
The first incident was with a resident who had just done her first turn through the sliding scale dental clinic at one of the local hospitals. She walked in and said, “I can’t believe the state of the mouths of those people. I mean, wow, I guess they must just have other priorities than dental care.”
I looked her in the eye and said, “Yeah, rent and food.” She was utterly stunned, like it had never occurred to her that anyone couldn’t just get dental care, afford toothpaste and toothbrushes, or that maybe sometimes those things would go by the wayside, if maybe the choice was between oral hygeine and diapers and formula for a baby, or keeping your shitty apartment.
Another student was in my office one day, and we were talking about dental care, and she was dealing with an older gentleman who had finally opted to just have his few remaining teeth pulled, and get full dentures. She, again, couldn’t believe the state of his mouth, he hadn’t ever even had a cleaning, etc…
“J_____,” I said, “Before I was 19 I went to the dentist once. The school district had a mandatory requirement that all incoming kindergartners get a fluoride treatment, and they subsidized it. After that, I didn’t go again until I was 19, and the only reason I went then was because my impacted wisdom teeth were so infected I couldn’t open my mouth because of the swelling. People can’t afford dental care. It’s really fucking expensive.”
Again, she just stared, utterly astounded that someone she knew, spoke to and commonly interacted with had grown up like that.
Sometimes I get a little resentful. Granted, part of that is the way in which the dental school coddles them on a student level as well. Every quarter I put together the list of classes they need to register for, complete with registration codes so they don’t have to go look anything up. The faculty bend over backwards, and honestly, sometimes I’d feel a little more secure going to the dentist if they were a little tougher in their grading. However, we are currently the number two dental school in the nation, so maybe it’s not as lax as I sometimes fear.
The fact remains though, that with a very few notable exceptions, these kids have never known poverty. They don’t know what it’s like to have to decide between this one thing you need, and this other one thing you need, or to spend five minutes standing in the grocery aisle pondering rice OR beans. Or what it’s like to live on spaghetti because when tube hamburger goes on sale you can make a week’s worth of food for under $10, and it will be breakfast, lunch and dinner. They don’t understand that sometimes people have to let the bronchitis get so bad you can barely move, because you came down with it over break and the student health clinic isn’t open during breaks, and you can’t afford a doctor otherwise, in fact you’re not sure you’re going to be able to afford the antibiotics you know they’re going to prescribe.
Nor do they understand that you’ve put yourself in debt for-freaking-ever to go to school, because your parents can’t afford to pay for college, and your job prospects are limited, particularly in the realm of jobs you can still work while going to school and making it to classes. Even with the loans I worked all the way through school, sometimes two or three jobs at once.
One of those jobs was working in the school bookstore. One of the students who worked there was a rancher’s daughter from just outside of town, and in the breakroom one day said, “I don’t believe there should be student loans. If you can’t afford to pay for school, don’t go. It’s like welfare.”
I jumped on her shit, and explained that sometimes those of us who were obviously far smarter and more compassionate than she herself, did not have the luck to be born to parents who made their fortune exploiting illegal immigrants, and so were on our own. And that if her folks had so much fucking money, just maybe she should give her job up to someone who NEEDED IT.
Yeah, her Dad made a lot of money exporting alfalfa to the Japanese horse racing industry. And most of the labor that harvested it were illegal immigrants, and huh, it was kind of funny that the INS only ever showed up to bust them during the last few days of harvest every year. Go figure. So, yeah, not only exploiting immigrant labor, but using the INS apparatus to screw them out of the wages he owed them for that work.
There’s my Classism. I really don’t have a whole lot of patience for people who grew up with money and have no concept that an awful lot of people, even well-educated, liberal, caucasian people don’t.