I’d love to say I don’t get the resentment.
I really would. I’d love to say I don’t see where they’re coming from, whiny Lindsey Graham and bitchy Jeff Sessions and condescending John Cornyn, with their pointy little questions about what makes Sonia Sotomayor so special anyhow. I’d love to say I don’t understand it.
But I do. I hear this stuff all around me, in the bluest state there is, all the time: I’ve worked hard. I’ve done my best. And if only I’d been a gay Native American vegan raised by an interracial family on a Buddhist mission in Africa during a coup AND an earthquake, there would have been a scholarship for me, or a promotion, or something. Something to make me special. (As if ethnicity was a hobby you could take up in order to make your college applications seem more interesting.)
I get the resentment. I get the anger that rests entirely on the presumption that somebody somewhere got a little bit of help I didn’t. And I get it because for the past 30 years we have basically, all of us, been told help isn’t coming, and asking for it is welfare/socialism/pussitude, and if you do get help you should feel very, very bad about it and never mention it at parties when people are running down welfare queens. The problem isn’t that somebody somewhere got help (or didn’t; more often than not we have no idea who gets what assistance when we talk about this stuff), it’s that by and large we as a country have been quicker to abandon our countrymen during times of need than we have been to hold out a hand.
So any example to the contrary — a scholarship to a prestigious university, however well-deserved and hard-earned, for example — is viewed with suspicion. You saw this during the earlier waves of right-wing outrage against Sotomayor, that she was “privileged” somehow, that she was unfairly ahead. How did THAT one slip past us? How did SHE get a leg up, I thought we weren’t giving those out anymore since St. Ronnie told that story about the lady driving the Cadillac? How dare anyone live a life that proves false what we ourselves know from experience to be true, that people are nasty and small and bitter and mean and if you get screwed oh well, too bad? If we are all victims of our worst circumstances, how dare anyone rise above them?
It would be harder to ask the questions asked, to provide the nasty insinuations provided by Sessions and Graham and Cornyn, were we a different kind of people. If we rested secure in the knowlege that all of us were taken care of, that all of us COULD count on our own hard work being enough to get us there, then we wouldn’t mind so much seeing someone who proved that true. It wouldn’t be such a shock to the system, it wouldn’t be questioned so rudely, it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary.
I’m not letting the distinguished senators from 1864 off the hook, but I am saying, this kind of thing worked for a long time because we all felt beaten down and exhausted, we all wanted help, and for too many of us help didn’t come, and wecouldn’trise above what happened to us. Too many people feel like they have no access to advancement of any kind, and it’s easier to teach those people to hate anyone who does advance than it is to help them advance themselves. I wish I didn’t get the resentment. By which I mean, I wish we lived in the kind of world in which nobody had to resent, because nobody had to want something so badly, and know they had no hope of getting it.