One day you’re sitting pretty as a star on the CBS sitcom “The Crazy Ones,” the next, you’re sitting on the side of the road, leaving people to wonder whether you really are the crazy one. Yes, the world of television ratings can be brutal; and much like, well, the world, no one – not even a revered vampire slayer – is immune from a smackdown. Don’t get me wrong; I love my Life is Good t-shirts as much as the next optimist, but I have no qualms with admitting that life’s bed of roses is full of shit. Hence, master gardener Oprah Winfrey’s suggestion:
“Turn your wounds into wisdom.”
I’ll cosign that tip. Although, I would also add:
“Then use that wisdom to turn your wounds into wealth.”
I think Oprah’s bountiful garden signifies her consent to my addendum. In fact, this week I watched a segment on “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” in which Oprah’s $2.9 billion garden was highlighted as one of the most notable in the U.S.
“Of the billionaires on the Forbes 400, 71 inherited their fortune, and another 56 inherited at least a portion of it. That’s nearly a third of the list. And our habit of handing down money from generation to generation perpetuates another disparity, perhaps, explaining why, of the Forbes 400, only 0.25 percent are African-American. And to answer your question, yes, it’s Oprah. Oprah is the person. You were right. Good guess, good guess.”
For those of us who didn’t have to guess, we know for a fact that Oprah is not on the Forbes 127. She is among the masses of gardeners who, with seeds of hope, plots of opportunity and teams of greenthumbs, tilled their talent with filthy rags until they became filthy rich. And like a number of
African-American billionaires before Oprah and those who’ve come since, they, too, have used their burdens as a basis for their billions.
But, before I unfurl the American flag and read from the scroll of “Self-Made Social Deviants,” allow me to turn your attention back to John Oliver and his witty observation of how many Americans, including this blogger, observe this country’s pot of gold:
“A few months ago, Pew Research revealed that 65 percent of Americans believe the wealth gap is increasing, and 60 percent believe our system unfairly favors the wealthy. But, and here’s the key, 60 percent also believe that most people who work hard enough can make it. Or, in other words: ‘Yeah, I can clearly see this game is rigged, which is what’s going to make it so sweet when I win this thing! Wooh!’”
He’s hilarious…and honest.
It’s a fact that income inequality exists in the United States and that the wealth gap is rapidly increasing. It’s a fact that there are laws in place to help the rich stay rich. It’s a fact that there are lawmakers who could care less about the middle-class and the poor. And yet, the facts don’t matter. (You knew that was coming. And John knew it too.)
“And it’s good. That’s a good thing. That optimism is one of the things I love the most about this country…”
Despite John’s love of American-branded optimism, he is nevertheless stupefied by the intensity at which many Americans cling to it. In the context of this post, “many Americans” would be me.
As I referenced earlier, I am not blind to the shitty circumstances of this world. Though I have considerably cut back the amount of news I take in - notwithstanding People Magazine and The Wendy Williams Show – I am willing to occasionally look over the rims of my rose-colored glasses to see some of the world’s harsh happenings. But really, I’m not looking at these events; I’m looking through them. Like a comic book superhero with x-ray vision, I’m using my life coach training to see what really exists behind the facts.
In terms of the growing wealth gap in the U.S., I see that this is a result of a shared belief held by the people choosing to stand on either side of the divide: Somebody’s got to be rich, somebody’s got to be poor. Even John says, just before lambasting the country’s state of economic inequality, that “no one [meaning, himself] is arguing for complete, perfect equality”. (((scratches head))) John, you chide President Obama for talking about economic inequality and then backing away from it, and then you do the same thing…in reverse.
Regardless of John’s pot making fun of Obama’s kettle, he does bring an important point to light: Fear. There, behind all of the worrisome facts about the world’s failures, exists a world of fear.
I’m afraid of sharing my wealth and power with people the world considers to be at a lower station than me because then we will be on the same level and I won’t be considered special anymore.
I’m afraid of operating in wealth and power with people the world considers to be at a higher station than me because then we will be on the same level and I won’t be considered special anymore.
The idea of equality is so scary to so many people because so many people have spent so much time, energy and money building divides to satisfy their insecurities. But when we drop the divisive facts, and instead recognize the truth that we are one, then we can see that any height that one percent of people ascend to can be ascended by all; and just because you, me and Sarah Michelle Gellar may be sitting on the side of the road today doesn’t exclude us from sitting pretty in the penthouse tomorrow.
“Up you mighty race! You can accomplish what you will!” ~Marcus Garvey
Copyright © 2013-2014 Stephanie Rochelle Redd. All rights reserved.