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After reading William R. Alford’s article “Asleep at the Wheel” (2/24), I thanked my lucky stars. Like the author, I worked in this area in the mid-’80s as a CAD operator but managed to stay afloat financially as I transitioned careers. There but for the grace of God go I, I thought after I had finished the article. Then it occurred to me that if the grace of God was involved in my situation, the maliciousness of God was involved in Alford’s misfortune. And since God has sworn off overtly nasty acts since drowning most of the world in the time of Noah, I cannot accept that, either.
Then it occurred to me that Adam Smith, in his work The Wealth of Nations, held the answer. He stated that, in order for a capitalist system to work, one must have an underclass. Without people such as Alford, capitalism would collapse and we’d just be a great big temperate Sweden. In a real way, Alford is an American hero. He is doing his part in much the same way that those of us who went to the malls and spent money after the 9/11 attacks did our parts. Other people are losing homes or becoming dislocated due to the gentrification I see moving like a glacier toward Highway 295. We owe these people a great debt, as well.
However, we must resist the temptation to repay this debt foolishly, say, with a living wage, medical care, affordable housing, and dignity. With the basic building blocks of life, the underclass ceases to be the underclass. Without an underclass, capitalism will fail just as surely as discontinuing the death penalty will bring violent crime back to the United States. The terrorists win. God hates fags. You get the picture.
Fortunately, the people of America are becoming more and more removed from one another. This rise in antisocial behavior will ease the guilt associated with living in a country with a great number of working poor and the gastro-intestinal ailments associated with that guilt. The fact that the average citizen cannot carry on a conversation with another human being unless it’s done on a cell phone or over a message board is a good thing.
Still, if you should happen to walk by one of the underclass, you could thank that person. Give him a thumbs-up. Show your gratitude in a insubstantial way.
Just don’t make eye contact.