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Woes of the working class

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Dad posing with his trucking buddies. (He’s second from the right.)

I know everyone has an opinion on the election, and as I have throughout the long and ugly election season, I’m taking in opinions on both sides. Like many people, I don’t think my parents ever could have envisioned a President Trump.

But my dad was a proud working-class white man, a group that has been both condemned and revered in this election cycle. My father was also a proud immigrant. He loved his adopted country as much as he loved his homeland of Northern Ireland. My father worked with all races and got along with everyone. He was human and did have his prejudices, but my father accepted anyone who came into the country legally who wanted to work hard to make this country a better place and to improve their own life in the process.

So I’ve thought a lot about my dad this week, and about some of the stereotypes that have been associated with the working class. My dad had simple tastes but he had a thirst for knowledge and an impressive understanding and deep interest in world affairs. He was more than meets the cover, and I bristle at the thought of him being lumped in with some of the unfavorable labels of the working class, such as rednecks and white trash.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a journalist who was required to cover quite a bit of the election. In the days since the election, the media has been criticized for getting it so wrong, and for being so out of touch. I would have to agree with that, for the most part. I feel like the media group I work for went out of our way to be fair and balanced in coverage, and the fact that we are spread out geographically addresses one of the other post-election criticisms: that most members of the media live in bubbles in New York City or Los Angeles.

In addition to doing a deep research dive into both parties and their supporters, I talked to people in my travels this year. I had extensive discussion with shuttle drivers, who happened to be conservative, and they had many interesting insights. The overall impression that I came away with is that there is a group of Americans who feel forgotten.

I’m not going to argue that Trump is the answer to the working class man’s problems, or that Clinton would have ignored them. I can only control my actions, and I am choosing to be more thoughtful of the working class, which doesn’t just include white men of course, but men and women of all races, religions and cultures.

My mom taught me not to take service people for granted, and that was an important lesson. I saw my father toil to earn very modest wages that kept us afloat in a  lower middle class lifestyle. It seems easy for Americans to lash out at the wealthy, but we should focus more on those who have been ignored and devalued.

As caregivers, we understand these lessons all too well.

 

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