One more post:
I read an article in the NYTimes today by (iconic journalist) Maureen Dowd calling Barack Obama and Michelle Obama nouveau riche. Self-made brilliants who styled themselves as debutantes first, too persnickety to get their dainty hands dirty with “sordid politics” while in office, rendering them at least mildly ineffective, and then once out of office became James Gatz in gauche glitter attempting and miserably failing at the (somewhat lost) art of elite exclusion.
Well…I’m always fascinated and enthralled by a good F. Scott Fitzgerald reference and I love the New York Times. But, that being said, I don’t think the Obamas are entirely nouveau riche. Barack Obama’s father was a fairly elite man in his country. Right? And for Obama’s mother to travel to Africa, fall in love with his father and then conceive and raise a future Harvard educated US President she likely wasn’t entirely “hardcore middle-class” either, so to speak. Michelle wasn’t either. She was black. She is black. And when you consider the reality of racism in the US her family was easily in the upper-middle class, in a way. The Obama family didn’t really come from “humble origins” so why would we expect them to be so “humble”? Because we have a tendency towards racism and we don’t understand social class in the US (and we’ve likely spread both our hope and confusion around the world by now).
Of course a genuinely brilliant couple from some (not strictly upper-class) real privilege, despite the terrible hindrances of racism, who do what they did with their lives will seem potentially bourgeois. Or if they at all move with any stability into the upper-class: “nouveau riche”. That is if they’re at all self-serving, foolish, slightly backward and/or pushy in the way an entitled middle-class person at their worst can be. It’s very easy when you come from “blessings” combined with the gifted privacy of being a member of the American middle-class of the 20th Century (even slightly) to be self-serving, foolish, slightly backward and/or pushy. Wealth of any real sort combined with the freedom of being “20th Century middle-class” is a temptation to narcissism even for those who don’t tend towards narcissism. It takes a lot of effort or wisdom or even just grace to be entirely “good” in those shoes. They’re…somewhat nouveau riche maybe but I think…more than that…they’re unaware that being black in America didn’t automatically make them James Gatz turned Jay Gatsby. …Or no…no…maybe they know that. Maybe it’s just the rest of us (so to speak) who are realizing that there are no “second acts” in American History. When it came to Barack Obama’s 60th birthday party maybe they were just the Obama family being…the Obama family… “Just” the Obama family. And maybe the Obamas are little snobby…or want to be. *smile*
Just my thoughts on my blog.