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High Five

by Sudhama Ranganathan Saturday, Aug. 23, 2008 at 12:33 PM

When I was a kid growing up my parents weren’t rich weren’t poor. They didn’t have a lot of money, but enough to qualify as lower middle class and at times middle class. My father had a visiting teacher’s position at a university and my mother was an administrative assistant working towards a college degree. The highest tax bracket they got to was middle class just before my dad passed away in 1987.

High Five...
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The neighborhood I grew up in was middleclass. My street was mostly Sicilian American with the surrounding neighborhood loosely split between college professors to the west and working class blue collar families to the east. The schools were well integrated and still are. There were people from diverse ethnic, cultural and economic backgrounds in both my town and neighborhood.

There weren’t many families of real wealth and they usually didn’t attend the same schools as the rest of us. The wealthy consisted of families who worked their way to their economic position typically through business ownership associated with construction, professional services like law and medicine or perhaps retail. Some came from moneyed families, but no one was driving Lamborghinis.

Back then a million dollars was considered a lot of money in most parts of the country. In my town someone who could claim their parents had that much was worthy of being stared at in awe indeed. They deserved a seat at the table of the kids who were talked about with a little reverence. Some parents encouraged relationships with such kids when the opportunity presented itself.

That kid wouldn’t have to brag or boast because every kid who knew of them (and that was about everyone) did it as soon as they came into view. “There’s Timmy, his dad’s rich!” Heads would turn in unison, and the nearer the kid got the more heads would automatically bow signaling the approach of someone with something to say we all might want to hear. As long as they didn’t do anything just plain stupid they might be allowed to hang around on the cool points their parents passed onto them alon e.

Of course being rich would only take them so far and if they didn’t pass muster they would have to ride their expensive and usually cool bike (meaning other than Huffy, Schwinn or used) to another group of kids and hope to fare better there. As I got older a million dollars soon got trumped as “a whole mess of money” by two million. Next was three, then four and so on. Now I turn on the tube and discover a person can’t even be in the cool rich guy club without a billion. One hundred million is considered chump change by some.

Most who inform us of the criteria and make up the lists don’t even get paid that. They may themselves be middle to upper middle class, but don‘t get much higher. Who’s who lists alone don’t take folks to the wealthy 1% of the country. That requires additional skills.

Even before the current economic crisis this administration has failed to lead us out of there were scarcely people who would not bend over backwards, tie themselves up in knots or eat giant live Amazonian spiders for one million dollars. Heck people do those things now for an extra ,000.00. What wouldn’t you do for a million? We all have our limits on that and it varies from person to person not making anyone better just different. But, most Americans can agree it’s still a lot of dough!

In fact in my hometown to this day, anyone who brings in half a million a year, who has that much in the bank or investments would be referred to as rich by many. With the economy the way it is people would be satisfied with a decent raise on their annual salary let alone a million bucks. Houses could be paid for, college tuitions could be covered without worry and retirements could be safeguarded. Not all at once of course, but some of that or other life expenses could be eased for the majority of Americans with a million dollars.

Upon receipt of such a sum one of the first thoughts to cross their minds might be “I’m rich.” It could be considered insulting to many Americans to insinuate that without a million one isn’t rich though everyone knows that, because most of us have nowhere near that sum. The same goes for two million, three million, four million and so on. As adults people don’t normally harbor resentment against someone because they are rich any more than the kids in the town I grew up in.

If any resentment arose it wasn’t until after the person did something really stupid to turn people off like making them feel lesser somehow because they had less money. Regardless of status you cannot hope to speak to multitudes of people by flaunting gifts with an air of smug indifference towards those not so blessed. That only serves to separate yourself from others based on something you have and others don’t. Doing that would make sense if you were trying to highlight a particular strength you could share with others which helped get you to your economic position which others could relate to and perhaps utilize themselves towards similar aspirations. After all, knowledge is power. Right?

To read about my inspiration for this article go to

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