America’s real national pastime: Snobbery & “Trading Up”

trading upBy Jane Stillwater

And you thought that BASEBALL was America’s national pastime?  Forget about that.  America’s real national pastime is snobbery.  America’s real national pastime is “trading up”.  First you hang out with the popular kids in high school.  Then you “trade up” to Paris Hilton and Bernie Madoff.  And then you “trade-up” to Goldman Sachs, Halliburton and the White House.

If you are a shopaholic, you “trade up” from the Dollar Tree to WalMart to Saks Fifth Avenue.

If you are a wingnut, you “trade up” from Edward R. Morrow and Walter Conkrite to Rush Limbaugh and Fox News.

If you are a man, you keep your eyes out for possible trophy wives.  And if you are a woman, you try to “marry up”.

But what happens to all those poor nerdy schmucks like me who only want freedom, justice, world peace and the human race’s evolution away from hatred and war?  We get belittled and snubbed.   “You buy your clothes at the Salvation Army, drive a hooptie, fight global climate change and speak to Black people who haven’t graduated from Harvard?  You want to save the whales?  LOSER!  Eeuuww.”

If the really big players in America’s real national pastime had been around 2000 years ago, they would have “traded up” from Jesus post haste.  “Good grief,” they would say.  “The man is a CARPENTER, for Christsake.”

Here’s a typical American “trading up” story that could have happened in your neighborhood (and probably did):  An idealistic but rather low-income woman had a daughter who spent her whole life “trading up” — both economically and socially.  Even at an early age, she began to think up more and more excuses not to be seen with her lower-income mom.  This daughter spent her entire childhood and adolescence cultivating friendships with rich people’s kids; spent her 20s scheming on how to talk her mother into giving her the family’s pitiful little inheritance when her grandfather died and keeping her mother away from the daughter’s daughter in case her mother’s idealistic influences might rub off; and then spent her 30s “marrying up”.  Now this daughter is really happy and busy living the American dream — but didn’t even invite her own mother to her (most recent) wedding.

And here’s a typical American “trading up” story that could have happened on the national level (and probably did):  The son of a U.S. president wanted to “trade up” to the position of president himself — so he cheated on his election (in America today, “trading up” seems to justify anything).  And once in office, he outright lied about a multitude of things in order to start some wars that took the lives of well over a million foreigners and over 9,000 Americans.  But can you blame him though?  He was trying to “trade up,” which is an admirable goal.

And then just before his term of office expired, this guy apparently okayed the Gaza atrocities.   Why not?  Who would mind a thousand or so extra dead Palestinians?  After all, his friends in charge of the bombings wanted to “trade up” too.  And “trading up” is the best justification there is — even if various bloody body parts of children are involved.

What worries me most about this former “president” is that no one has heard anything about George W. Bush’s efforts to “trade up” lately.  That’s scaring me.  The man is a trader at heart, and the fact that we haven’t heard anything about his trading activities lately is just plain scary.  But maybe he’s just on the down-low right now, busy “trading up” with the devil for the best place in Hell.

And here’s another aspect of our “trading up” national pastime that really bothers me.  Does having a conscience or having spiritual money-in-the-bank count for anything at all in America right now?  “No.”  Yikes!

Being a good person used to be a very important American national pastime — but not any more.  Most of us have already let morality slide in favor of playing the “trading up” game.  And as for the rest of us — those of us who still keep trying to play according to the rules of old-fashioned morality?  We are delegitmized, avoided and laughed at — and sent down to the minor leagues.

About karlsie

Some great perversity of nature decided to give me a tune completely out of keeping with the general symphony; possibly from the moment of conception. I learned to read and speak almost simultaneously. The blurred and muffled world I heard through my first five years of random nerve loss deafness suddenly came alive with the clarity of how those words sounded on paper. I had been liberated for communications. I decided there was nothing more wonderful than writing. It was easier to write than carefully modulate my speech for correct pronunciation, and it was easier to read than patiently follow the movements of people’s lips to learn what they were saying. It was during that dawning time period, while I slowly made the connection that there weren’t that many other people who heard the way I did, halfway between sound and music, half in deafness, that I began to understand that the tune I was following wasn’t quite the same as that of my classmates. I was just a little different. General education taught me not only was I just a little isolated from my classmates, my home was just a little isolated from the outside world. I was born in Alaska, making me part of one of the smallest, quietest minorities on earth. I decided I could live with this. What I couldn’t live with was discovering a few years later, in the opening up of the pipeline, which coincided with my first year of junior college, that there were entire communities of people; more than I could possibly imagine; living impossibly one on top of another in vast cities. It wasn’t even the magnitude of this vision that inspired me so much as the visitors who came from these populous regions and seemed to possess a knowledge so great and secretive I could never learn it in any book. I became at once, very conscious of how rural I was and how little I knew beyond the scope of my environment. I decided it was time to travel. The rest is history; or at least, the content of my stories. I traveled... often to college campuses, dropping in and out of school until one fine day by chance I’d fashioned a bachelor of arts degree in psychology. I’ve worked a couple of newspapers, had a few poems and stories tossed around in various small presses, never receiving a great deal of money, which I’m assured is the norm for a writer. I spent ten years in Mexico, watching the peso crash. There is some obscure reason why I did this, tightening up my belt and facing hunger, but I believe at the time I said it was for love. Here I am, back home, in my beloved Alaska. I’ve learned somewhat of a worldly viewpoint; at least I like to flatter myself that way. I’ve also learned my rural roots aren’t so bad after all. I work in a small, country store. Every day I greet the same group of local customers, but make no mistake. My store isn’t a scene out of Andy Griffith. The people who enter the establishment, which also includes showers, laundry and movie rentals, are miners, oil workers, truck drivers, construction engineers, dog sled racers and carpenters. Sometimes, on the liquor side, the conversations became adult only in vocabulary. It’s a good thing, on the opposite side of the store is a candy aisle filled with the most astonishing collection, it will keep a kid occupied with just wishing for hours. If you tell your kids they can have just one, you have an instant baby sitter; better than television; as they agonize over their choice while you catch up on the gossip with your neighbor. We also receive a lot of tourists, a lot of foreign visitors. They are usually amazed at this first sign of Alaskan rural life style beyond the insulating hub of the Anchorage bowl. Many of them like to hang around and chat. They gawk at our thieves wanted posters. They laugh at our jokes and camaraderie with our customers. I’ve learned another lesson while working there. You don’t have to go out and find the world. If you wait long enough, it comes to you.

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2 Comments on “America’s real national pastime: Snobbery & “Trading Up””

  1. The ily thing I wish to “trade up” for right now is an uprage from a crumby apartment to a nice, fortified bunker stocked with guns and located hundreds of miles from the nearest large city – so that I can wait for this rotting civilization to die in a safe location.

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