Next to the all but impenetrable shadows of power, wealth, celebrity, influence, and professional sports talent, virtually all of us are "insignificant," "inadequate," and "unknown." In another word, normal.
Let's do the math on this ultra elite segment of society. If we add up all the Members of Congress, the President and his staff, all the Hollywood actors and "reality stars," network and newspaper executives, professional athletes, and the billionaires and multi-millionaires housed in our nation, we are talking about a few hundred thousand people at best.
Out of a population of approximately 330,000,000, a minute one percent are perched atop the Ivory Towers of power, wealth, influence, and celebrity. Out of that lofty and all but unattainable one percent, the reality is that only about one-tenth or less make our radar screen at any given time.
Unfortunately, an inescapable fact that touches and impacts the 99.9% of the rest of us is that for the most part, this one-tenth of one-percent sends our young people off to war, makes the laws that govern us, decides which taxes we pay, which banks are safe, when our roads will be improved, and which movies, television shows, news stories and books we watch and read. A few thousand people decide the content, future, and often fate, for 330,000,000 Americans.
Fine. In many ways, we deserve this one-tenth of one-percent. At a certain point, you do get the government you deserve, the "celebrities" you deserve, and the fate... if you have a voice... you deserve.
Sadly and many times tragically, below those of us who are merely "insignificant," "inadequate," and "unknown" compared to the one-tenth of one-percent, is another class. A class of people who are invisible, unacknowledged, and if truth be told, often shunned and shut-out.
This class of people would be the "unwashed masses" living near or below the poverty line. Unlike the elite few thousand who influence our lives from the moment we wake until the moment our head hits our clean pillow in our nice home, this class of people represents millions of our fellow Americans and neighbors.
Millions who almost nobody really wants to think about, talk about, or help. Especially in a global economic meltdown. Oh, sure, at Christmas time and the holidays, we hear the traditional, predictable, and oftentimes insulting rhetoric about this invisible and unwanted class. Be those words from highly flawed politicians, clergy, charities, or "celebrities" fulfilling a court ordered sentence. But few of them mean it. Few of them really want to help.
Worse, many from the one-tenth of one-percent use the invisible poor as pawns for their own endgames. Be that eliciting votes, raising millions from the pulpit of a mega-church, or selling vile content to those least able to afford it.
As one who grew up in abject poverty and was often homeless as a child, I know this is the furthest thing from an academic exercise. Everyday -- holiday or not -- millions of Americans have to deal with the mounting and crushing cruelties of poverty. Be they eviction, having your electricity, phone, or gas turned off for non-payment, having no heat for your children in the dead of winter, no health insurance, no car to get to work, having to work three or more low paying jobs, no critically needed dental care, having to use food stamps, and having to continually swallow your pride as you beg family, friends of the government for help.
Ironically, the more I "succeed" in life, the more I'm repulsed by the one-tenth of one percent "above" me and the more I long for the values, ethics, and unseen valor of the "unwashed masses." They are by far, the better class of people and the bedrock of our nation.
Invisible or not.
*** Douglas MacKinnon is a former White House and Pentagon official and a novelist.