I am at the age of retrospection, a time of life when some people question how their lives were spent. Or I assume they do. I know I do. I sometimes wonder how my life might have gone had I taken a different path. Was my life misspent? Might I have spent it more productively? Should I have spent more time and energy in pursuit of money, for instance, culminating in a richer inheritance for my daughters?
But I never thought getting rich was life's highest aspiration. Now, however, I occasionally wonder if I was right about that. I see the power and privilege the rich enjoy, and it occurs to me that being fabulously wealthy would have been rather nice. I might have enjoyed flitting around by private jet to visit one of my multi-million dollar vacation homes sprinkled around the globe. It would have been swell, in fact, if only I could have suppressed feeling guilty about the millions of people who couldn't claim a roof over their heads. It would have been nice, maybe, to order a bottle of wine that cost what a minimum-wage worker made in a month, or to buy a pair of Ballenciaga sneakers that cost such a worker two weeks of full-time earnings.
I might have liked attending exclusive soirees and charity balls surrounded by people decked out in glittering jewelry that could have fed, housed, and clothed a sizeable village somewhere, or even a small town in America's Rust Belt.
I might have liked attending exclusive soirees and charity balls surrounded by people decked out in glittering jewelry that could have fed, housed, and clothed a sizeable village somewhere, or even a small town in America's Rust Belt. It might have been nice to feel so exalted, so much more worthy than the common run of humanity, with entitlements that extended to my children, with special dispensations that opened doors to schools, opportunities, government contracts, and tax breaks limited only by the imagination of highly paid lawyers and lobbyists who worked full time to ensure the gravy train made regularly scheduled stops at my corporate headquarters. It might have been nice to literally get away with murder, poisoning the air and water in communities where I didn't have to live, all while telling myself what a noble human being I was, providing jobs to the riff raff whose labor continued to keep me in mansions equipped with elevators for my many cars.
Perhaps, had I set different goals, I could have told lies, exploited fear and bigotry, and launched an obscenely lucrative career on right wing talk radio, telling truck drivers and daily commuters how their problems were all caused by "femi-Nazis," or "big government libtards," or illegal brown people who were sucking up untold trillions in welfare benefits. Like Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Hannity and dozens of agit-prop purveyors, I could have spared myself years of college while crafting a multi-million dollar career despite a lack of education, charm, or personal integrity, pushing scare stories about how the heathen hordes were taking Christmas away from us all, or spreading fears about the collapse of everything decent if gay people were allowed to marry. Rush Limbaugh, for instance, is currently worth a half a billion bucks after three decades of pushing grim fairy tales that tapped into racism and resentment. And how else would a guy as unappealing as Bill O'Reilly ever have earned enough disposable income to pay off the untold number of women he molested, affronted, or harassed in the work place?
Or, had I inherited millions of dollars when I was young, I might have turned out like Donald J. Trump, a man who seems to have been bred to lie, cheat, and steal, never thinking of anyone but himself, a narcissistic sociopath who gained the whole world at the expense of whatever soul he might have possessed, with no allegiance to country, no regard for the truth, imbued with the racism he'd learned from his daddy.
My parents worked hard, had little, did the best they could. Without undue modesty, I did as they had done, as most people not born to wealth do. I caught a break or two along the way, made a life as a teacher, a life's work that gave me the burden and the privilege of helping young people improve their skill with language and appreciation of literature. I did that teaching in community colleges where nearly all my students came from backgrounds like or worse than my own, without many advantages, with opportunities limited by circumstances beyond their control.
My profession didn't make me rich, didn't put me in a position to leave much to those aforementioned daughters, didn't turn me into a 57-year-old "reality" TV "star" and future president of the United States whose wealth and privilege gave him license to fondle strange women with impunity and brag about it to chortling sycophants engaged in adolescent "locker room talk."
And, for that, I'm grateful. If you voted for Trump and don't deeply regret it, isn't it about time you did a little retrospection, too