Who is the Other?

If you are to believe what you see in the corporate media, most of the residents of the United States are healthy, wealthy, and wise. They drive late-model cars, wear high-end labels, eat from plates artistically drizzled with colorful sauces and have help to perform all those nasty little jobs that get one’s hands dirty. They attend the galas that reunite them with their classmates for fun and profit and select nannies to care for their privileged children, who attend exclusive pre-preschools and benefit from prepaid educations at the most prestigious universities. And the rest of us are the “Other.” According to the media.

Mitt Romney’s lifestyle goes many steps further. The man who it seems is unaware that anyone in the United States lives a less lavish lifestyle than he has plans to bulldoze his three thousand-square-foot California home in order to replace it with an eleven thousand-square-foot home that will accommodate his vehicles, including, one can only assume, his wife’s Cadillacs. The new garage will be subterranean and include a lift upon which Mitt’s cars will be raised and lowered into the car vault. The select-a-car system.

Maybe I shouldn’t pick on Romney, but it’s really hard to ignore his riches, about which he reminds us every time he opens his mouth and displays his sparkling white smile. He is definitely part of the 1 percent. I would say that makes him and them the Other, which includes President Obama and the rest of the puppet masters who pull our strings until they weaken and break and we fall to the stage.

I watch very little television. If I’m yearning for fiction, I read a book. But when I do succumb, it’s to watch an old film or the SyFy Channel, with its zombies, man-eating alligators and ghouls. The “normal” characters, the ones who are ravaged and eaten, look more like us. Wrinkled grandmas, the ragged homeless, sexy college students and struggling moms and dads who take their families camping lose their limbs and lives to an Other. You see where I’m going with this.

There is no middle, not any more. There are the Mitts, then there is the out-of-work protester, the old woman who peers into her food pantry bag hoping there might be a box of eggs in it this week and the Goodwill shopper who sorts through piles of small-size clothing as her children stand patiently beside her.

The Other portrayed by the media is usually dark, missing teeth, smoking and/or loitering in front of a Home Depot, sporting tattoos, hoodies and lots of drug-related bling.

The Other they offer us is meant to frighten us into thinking we should aspire to being like the Mitts. They want us to discard our humanity, our compassion and our goodwill and follow the gold-paved “yellow brick road.” I’ll take my bus tokens and store coupons thank you very much.

Money means different things to different people. I noticed that the box fan that was priced at $10 two years ago and went to $12 last year, is now $15. Maybe five bucks is nothing to the Other, but that’s a 50 percent jump in price in two years. And that’s just one thing. Maybe if Cadillacs jumped 50 percent, the Other would notice. To the poor person living in a tiny hot apartment, the inflated price might be a deal-breaker. Or he or she may choose to eat rice and beans or noodles for a few nights to recover the difference. But hey, they have a choice, right?

What really bothers me, I mean really, really bothers me is that the media and the politicians and the corporate sponsors think we are stupid. We aren’t stupid. We’re powerless. And the only way the power will trickle down to us is if the Others lose everything. Maybe then we can work together to create an acceptable life for all. One car, one house, one job that will pay the bills for a family, one two-week vacation a year, one decent education. Mitt would laugh at this. He assumes that this is already the case. Otherwise he would not flaunt his wealth in the faces of the poor and desperate.

I am not so mean that I would want to cause pain to the Other. How could anyone be that cold. Except that they are. The sin of omission, remember that one? Doing nothing when you know in your heart that you can remedy a horrendous situation, particularly one involving the welfare of other human beings, is the most egregious sin that can be committed by man. It is the hidden sin of which we are all guilty at some time and on some level, but as it has been folded into our cultural and political dogma, it has become acceptable, the norm. It is the Other.

Turn your back, avert your eyes, ignore the pain around you. Go to hell.

Sheila Velazquez lives and writes in Northwest Massachusetts. Her work is informed by decades of experience with unions, agriculture, public health, politics and her support of populism. She welcomes contact by email: simplelifestyle101@yahoo.com. Read other articles by Sheila.