Sunday, September 2, 2007

Working Class II

A friend of mine from Eastrose read my last post and e-mailed me. I thought I would share what she wrote.

Good old class differences! They divide us in ways personal and profound.

"I too read the article on the working class in the UU World, as well as your comments on your blog. I didn't see the mechanism to post a response on your blog, but this has always been a deeply personal issue for me. I wrote something to respond to both the article and your blog that I wanted to share with you. It's too long for the UU World, but I would value your thoughts and comments. Maybe we can start a dialogue in our congregation!
Here it is:
As the daughter of a working class family, I have so often wanted to loudly tell my UU friends to WAKE UP! I’ve found over and over that UU’s are unaware of the real life situations of the majority of Americans who are “working class.”
My father, who did not finish 6th grade, was a logger and later a truck driver (and a Teamster). My mother was a bookkeeper. Higher education was not valued in my family; my father considered it elitist and was convinced that people who went to college did not want to dirty their hands with real work. My mother, like so many in my family, was a fundamentalist, born-again Christian, and allowed her independent thinking capacity to be subsumed into the rigidity of that faith.
While I did not go to college, I did succeed in a “professional” career, and eventually found my way to a UU church in Maryland where I felt somewhat comfortable. But even there, one UU woman told me that she (of course) did not expect our church to reach out to people without college degrees. When I told a friend that I had not gone to college, his jaw dropped open and he eventually said, “Jean, I won’t hold that against you.” I referenced the fact that one-half of American high school youth did not go on to college in a conversation with a PhD physicist. He refused to believe me, even though I had a valid citation. So often I felt excluded when it was assumed that everyone had advanced degrees, had traveled extensively, and had children who were accomplished both in education and careers.
One of the reasons I moved back to Oregon from the Washington, D.C. area was that I was tired of upper middle class pretensions. From my childhood in Portland, I remembered positive values, such as the integrity of a full day’s hard work, personal sacrifice for the needs of your family, relying on yourself, commitment to your extended family no matter how much conflict there might be, keeping your children safe, taking care of aged parents, and returning your library books on time. I never heard about such things as personal choice, fulfillment, and career rewards. And there was certainly no assumption that parents would pay for college for their children -- their goals were paying the bills on time and saving a penny for a rainy day.
After he died, I learned that my father was brilliant in his own way, with a patent for a mechanical device he had designed. I think he would have been comfortable with UU religious principles, but would never have been comfortable in a UU congregation. There are others like my father and myself out there who could benefit, and could contribute, to Unitarian Universalism.
If you’re wondering how to provide a safe religious home for working class individuals, I suggest that you begin by learning more about the working class, realize that you already have working class members, and reflect this knowledge in the language that is used in worship services and sermons."