When I was a child, one of the most irritating things my mother used to say to me is that life is not fair. Part of the reason I found it irritating is that she frequently said this after she had done something rather malicious. My mother had her faults.
But that isn't to say that she was wrong about life and unfairness. She grew up in poverty and knew something about unfairness. She knew that everyone encounters unfairness in life, both in the actions of other people and in the circumstances of life that come about through no one's fault. Some people face more unfairness and some face less, but unfairness is an inevitable part of living.
I was thinking about this because of a friend's complaint yesterday. First, a little background:
Ellen was born and reared in a shi-shi East Coast town. Her parents were the children of immigrants. Her Dad was a very smart guy, a military officer who went to Harvard on the G.I. bill. Ellen's family wasn't wealthy, but they were very comfortable. As a child, she attended excellent public schools and got into a top college and law school. With scholarships and the support of her parents, she finished her education without any debt.
During her first few years out of school, she worked hard and, other than a rough patch getting through a divorce, she got by without any additional financial help from her parents.
Ellen had some good breaks in life. She also made some good breaks for herself and she had a couple of bad breaks during those early years. She was always a complainer, but most of her griping was delivered with a humorous, self-deprecating edge.
Besides the blessing of being born to a family with some money, Ellen inherited an abundance of brains and good looks. There was never any shortage of men swarming around her. I guess you could say that life was very fair to Ellen in the brains and looks department, which served her well when it came to options in mate selection.
second husband got a nice bonus this year--deep into 8 figures. I know that because Ellen
complained to me about the information being publicly available on the net.
I was hanging out with Ellen at her new home yesterday. It was built at cost of $7 million and it's fit for a showing in Architectural Digest. There is no mortgage on this home or on the other two homes she and her husband own.
Ellen's three children attend very pricey private schools. Two of the three kids have been diagnosed with learning and behavior problems. There are therapists, psychiatrists and tutors to help them along. Ellen worries that her kids might not get into Ivy League schools and complains frequently about how difficult it is to raise kids with problems. I don't doubt that it is difficult.
Ellen also has the help of a full-time nanny for the past 16 years. Josefina is an illegal immigrant from El Salvador. She is a
very warm, intelligent and conscientious woman who clearly appreciates
a job that pays much better than anything she could have found in her native country. Since she's been working for Ellen, Josefina has learned to speak English fluently. She also earned a G.E.D. and has been taking college classes part-time in recent years. Ellen tells me that Josefina sends quite a bit of money back to El Salvador to support her mother and a sibling.
Josefina married another illegal immigrant several years ago and, at 39, is pregnant with her first child. She's elated, but knows that if she gets thrown out of the country, she will have to take her child back to a life of poverty. But if her child is born here, he or she will have the option of moving back to the US to work. I know this makes a lot of people angry, but Josefina is just trying to get through life the best she can.
This brings us to that business about life being unfair. Ellen was complaining that Josefina is getting free maternity care from a local clinic. She doesn't know if it's a publicly funded clinic or one that uses private funds, but what really frosted her was that Josefina was given the H1N1 vaccine which was not yet available to Ellen's children. "She doesn't pay taxes, she isn't here legally, but Josefina gets the vaccine before my kids" She demanded to know: "How is that fair?"
I notice that in recent years, Ellen's griping has escalated. It seems that the more she has, the more bitterly resentful she becomes about life's 'unfairness' and the more she resents people who have far less than she has. Even though her situation represents the extreme, I don't think the tendency I see in Ellen is exceptional. We have become a nation of haves who complain bitterly about unfairness, while the have-nots roll with the punches.
Where is my mother when America needs her?