Jamie hails from a very small town in the middle of Missour-uh (Missour-EE for outsiders). His three closest high school buddies were Nick, BJ and Pat. His wild tales of their adventures are great comedy, but Jamie will tell you as much fun as those days were, he really needed to get out of there; that type of life didn't suit him. Not that he's above the small-town thing. It's not that at all. He just felt like settling for less wasn't something he could do his whole life and so he jumped on the Navy bandwagon when it came a'calling and never looked back. His three buddies stayed behind and unfortunately didn't do a whole lot with their lives. Pat was killed a couple years back by his step-father, during a heated argument over some truck tools. BJ moved to live near his parents (as far as I understand) and calls us every now and then, drunk off his arse, usually at an early morning hour. His voicemails are entertaining on one hand, sad on another. And Nick. He's doing okay I guess. He didn't finish high school and spends his days tinkering with vehicles of some sort. Tractors last I heard. Nick is content and happy with his lot in life. Although not sporting a full mouth of teeth, his smile is genuine and kind. I really liked Nick a lot. And even though of the three buddies, he accomplished the least materially speaking, he's the least White Trash dude from Jamie's adolescent group of buddies. He just doesn't have the mentality.
White Trash. I hate those words, I really do. I don't really like to think of ANY human being as refuse, but for the sake of this blog post, I'm going to be tossing these words around a bit. Jamie always explained to me that White Trash isn't about money, or materials items, or what title you hold at a job. He says that the definitive sign of being white trash is never accepting responsibility for anything that goes wrong in your life; that no matter what is happening you can find something or someone else to pin it on.
He's so right. It's not a thing, it's a mentality. There are several things I've noticed among people who, in my mind, sort of get scooted into the 'That's so trashy' column. I was thinking about this a lot last night as I sorted through some drama I experienced yesterday. I was completely ripped to shreds by a person who "assumed" I was attacking them. I was not. It was later explained to me that I unknowingly stepped on a land mine with this person. The explanations were interesting...but they were very (you guessed it) white trash. So in thinking about this, I've come up with a list of qualities that just seem very low-budget, low-class and white trash.
1. As mentioned previously, never accepting responsibility for any negative thing you are experiencing. It is my (controversial) opinion that every single thing we experience, we have a hand in. Everything. I don't mean this as saying we actively CHOSE this thing to happen to us, but that we had a part in it. I feel like understanding this concept is so empowering. It moves you from victim to voluntary participant in the whole gamut of life. I'll use the most poignant example from my own life to make my point.
My son Matthew was born with a fatal birth defect. It was not caused by anything I did and it was not caused by any specific gene that Jamie or I passed on. I didn't ride too many roller coasters, smoke pot, snort powder or eat non-organic celery. In short, it was a fluke and it sucked. So how then can I claim that I had in a hand in this happening to me? Well, I got pregnant. I chose to get pregnant and that choice meant that I ultimately experienced this terrible tragedy. Did I deserve it? No, not that I am aware of. I don't believe in all that "deserve" nonsense because it makes no logical sense in the grand scheme of things. I had to ask myself, "Okay, this happened. It happened because I got pregnant. Would I have done it differently? WILL I do it differently in the future?" Or, will I choose to abstain from getting pregnant again? Because truth be known that would be the only way to guarantee this kind of pain would never touch me again. It was empowering on so many levels to answer that question with "Yes, I will accept that risk again." And now three sweet babies later, I am so glad I did. I have no regrets. I have a deeper understanding that just because you get two pinks lines on a stick does not guarantee a healthy baby 9 months later. Accepting my hand in this didn't mean I asked for this to happen to me, or that I chose it. It just meant that something bad that happened to me didn't happen out of nowhere and it happened because of a risk I took. And that in the end, I decided the risk would always be worth it to me. Empowerment. Owning my decisions and how they may impact my life. Of course, I could have said "No, the risk is not worth it." That also would have been a way to own what choice I made that steered my life in that particular direction and given me the power of saying "Nope, not worth it...not doing that again.
This whole idea that no matter what is going on, someone else is to blame is maddening. "I didn't have enough money to pay my electric because my job cut my hours and I can't go back to school to get a better job because I don't have time.." WAHHHH!!! I've actually heard versions of this and it makes me so mad. Because I know that person has been out to the movies, out to dinner, bought this new something or the other and yet, they never make the connection that the money they spent on that stupid shit is the same kind of currency that would have paid the electric bill.
2. The second white trash mentality, the one I experienced yesterday so vividly, is the propensity to create conflict where none exists...starting an argument because of a perceived offense, one that was never intended. My favorite (sarcasm) version of this is when someone does my favorite white trash sport known as "Shit stirring." I'll explain how this went down yesterday to give you, the reader, a better picture. I recently stumbled upon a really cool website that checks your grammar as well as spelling and I was kind of excited about it because I have a horrible habit of using way too many commas in my writing. I told my husband about this site, and my best friend, and then when my sister-in-law posted one of her crazy writings, I linked her to it. I figured she writes, I write....I bet she'll love this site too. Wrong. Way wrong. Oy did I open up a can of worms. She went ape-shit on me. I got "I am not a professional writer, I don't care if my posts aren't always spelled perfectly" (The chick is on Facebook daily trying to get people on her e-book bandwagon...) and "I would hope that my audience would give me grace and get the basic gyst of what I'm talking about." I was just blown away. So I replied that I wasn't sure if she was working on a phone, or a keyboard, but I was just learning so much about the SEO thing when writing content and so on....I was just typing like a writer types to a writer. It never crossed my mind that she was taking this as an offense or that I was putting her down. So then, her mom pipes in with something nasty (and stupid me, I didn't even realize it WAS nasty because I thought we were all having a normal conversation. I can be dense sometimes, but that's because I don't assume people are being buttholes, since I'm not one...make sense?) The thing is, her mom has (from what I understand) been a very cruel person to my sister-in-law. They don't get along. But she sniffs some conflict and BOOM it's ON. What is that??? "I can put you down but if I think anyone else is putting you down, I'll cap their ass??" I just DO NOT get that.
So basically I got ganged up on by two people who don't even like each other, over something that wasn't even happening. Then my other sister-in-law steps in and tries to mediate, which was sweet, but the reasons given were lacking. And I was over it. The need for drama, at all times, is not something I subscribe to. I like my life simple and happy, not fraught with assumptions that people are putting me down. I understand she may have had reason because other people have been mean to her, however, when I apologized and explained instead of graciously accepting that and trying to understand my point of view, she chastised me again for explaining. Sigh. My only regret is not saying something about her preaching the Bible so often on her Facebook page because seriously that makes all Christians look moronic. There's something about the whole "God is so good....my husband is a son of a bitch and I hate him..." that puts people off from the whole God thing. I don't blame them.
3. My third tell-tale sign that someone is playing on the White Trash playground is the "I'm Owed..." mentality. This is pretty broad, but it's easy to spot. I remember when my sister found out she was pregnant with her oldest son. After she broke the news, she said something about the government paying for it. Her words were,( and I'll never forget this) "It's my turn now..." Everyone else is getting all this free money and food, now they OWE ME the same thing. Or more recently, a family member mentioned borrowing money from another family member and I commented that it was kind of sad that everyone was borrowing money from the oldest member of the family, the one receiving social security and on a fixed income. The response I got "Well, she has more than the rest of us..." Just WOW. I mean WOW. Just because someone has more than you do, does not mean they owe you anything. My very good friend was receiving food assistance after her divorce and so was her mother. Her mother was in the process of applying for social security disability and finally got word she was approved, but this meant her food stamps would be lowered to a different amount based on the disability income she would receive So she tells my friend "I'm just going to have to use some of your food stamp money then..." GAH!!! She was SO angry when my friend explained she could use some of her actual MONEY to buy food with because in the end she was actually doing better financially with the new income she was receiving.
I know people with limited financial resources that live a life than is far from poor. They do so much with so little and you never hear them bemoaning what other's have, that they don't. I have been amazed and so dumb-founded at the resourcefulness of some of my friends (A whole house being moved and then remodeled on property bought with cash comes to mind, but I'll leave names out of this. You know who you are!!) But I also know people that think if you have more than they do, you really should give them some of your excess DESPITE the fact that your resources came from working for them, and DESPITE the fact that they are just as able to work for the same resources, but have chosen not to. DESPITE the fact that they have not chosen to abstain from the same things you have chosen to forgo to reserve the resources you do have. I still think The Little Red Hen should be required reading for every single adult in America, on a daily basis.
I don't care how you dress, what your bank account looks like, what kind of house you live in, or if the dog playing at your feet has papers or not. White trash has nothing to do with worth. It's not about currency of any kind. It's not about being Caucasian even. (Although I'm pretty sure other race classifications have their own lingo to describe the phenomenon) It's about viewing the world you live in as against you, and you alone. It's the mindset that you owe the world nothing, but the world owes you. You are the center of the universe and everything, at all times, should revolve around your wants, needs and desires.
And contrary to popular belief, it has absolutely NOTHING to do with owning a Banjo. :)