Sunday, June 19, 2016

Living in a Bubble Apart From the Average Joe

I live in a bubble.

Bill Maher, the comedian-cum-political pundit, often castigates Republicans for living in a bubble, for not recognizing bigotry and old fashioned stupidity, among other blindnesses.

I live in a bubble as well, for I am among the most educated in our society and live among similarly learned folks in the media, entertainment, business and culture capital of the United States, if not the world. (My bubble has smaller spheres in other parts of the country—Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Omaha, Austin, Tucson, and other cities where liberals reside.)

Like most intelligent, honest thinkers, I believe Donald Trump is not fit to be president of these United States. It is not just because he is a racist, a misogynist, a bully, etc. It is because he lacks depth of understanding the complexities of national and international issues, how they can be related and the consequences of half-baked actions. 

I live in a bubble because I don’t fully understand or wish to accept that too many of my fellow countrymen outside my bubble have displayed a preference for a boob and bigot rather than a competent politician from either party.

Inside my bubble fellow bubbleheads read The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal, New York magazine, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair and other opinion making publications. Few articles praise the possibility of a President Trump.

I wonder how many people inside my bubble recognize how different we are from the rest of the country.

About a dozen years ago at a party for friends moving to Manhattan, I listened to several acquaintances bemoan their paycheck to paycheck existence. After their mortgage, car payments, country club membership dues, winter ski vacations, summer homes/rentals in the Hamptons, high municipal and school taxes and possibly private school tuitions, hardly any money from their six to seven figure salaries was left over, they lamented. It was, they all agreed, difficult to live a “middle class life” in Westchester. 

Not being too politic I quickly pointed out they were not middle class, by any stretch of the imagination, at least according to generally accepted economic principles. Yes,  they might have felt emotionally like cash-strapped middle classers, but only because the choices they made left them struggling to balance their “wants” against their “needs” and disposable income.

My bubblehead cohort does not begrudge the influx of immigrants, legal or illegal. We need them to clean our homes, tend our gardens, nanny our children and grandchildren, build our home expansions, serve us caramel macchiatos and bus our tables after dinner out. 

We seldom think about the jobs they hold on assembly lines or slaughterhouses or on industrial construction sites, jobs that have been lost to a home-grown generation of blue collar workers. And we don’t dwell on the jobs that have been lost when plants close and production is shipped overseas. Yes, we feel bad for the displaced workers in cities and towns far removed from our bubble sites, but all we really care about is being able to buy what we want when we want it at the lowest possible price. 

We’re not selfish. Just indifferent. 

According to Charles A. Murray, a libertarian political scientist, author, columnist, pundit and a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, inside my bubble we are isolated and insulated from the average white American. While I can’t think of any of my professional and personal acquaintances without college and perhaps post-graduate degrees, only 30% of white American men have four year college degrees, says Murray. 

My bubble won’t burst easily, if at all. But it’s instructive to recognize its existence.

(Take this quiz to gauge if your bubble is isolated and insulated from the majority of Americans: I scored a 39, which means I’m a first-generation upper-middle-class person with middle-class parents.)