Thursday, March 22, 2012

Occupy Greed

   I was in my high school band. Every 3 years, our district participated in a band exchange with another district. We'd travel to the other school for a weekend, do a joint concert and stay in their houses, then they'd come to our area a weekend or two later. Our exchange was with Hewlett High School on Long Island.

Talk about culture shock.

Back then my school in Norristown, PA about 30% African American, 30% descendants of ethnic immigrants, 30% Pennsylvania Dutch. Our student body of 2000 were primarily middle-class and poor students.

Their school's population was closer to 700, and at least 600 of them were rich white kids.

When we visited Hewlett, I was housed in a mansion with servants, an indoor Olympic-sized pool, and the biggest Great Dane I'd ever seen, named Sir. My guest room was larger than any room in my house, had its own bath and walk-in closet, and had never been slept in by a member of the family.

I grew up in a semi-detached home where 5 people shared a bathroom. We didn't have guest rooms. We could only accommodate one Hewlett student and only because my brother was away at college.

Skip ahead to this year's Malice Domestic Convention next month. I've been assigned to a panel titled Occupy Malice: When Money is the Root of All Murder. All of the authors on the panel have set their stories during bad economic times. I'm on the panel because half of my novel, FEAR ITSELF, takes place during the Great Depression. In thinking about the topic, I realize that all my Possessed Mystery novels are about poor and/or unemployed characters, and all take place during difficult economic times.

Why have I done that? Well, they do say "write what you know."

This week I heard a man named Charles Murray interviewed on PBS. His theory is that the wealthy are morally superior to the poor. He points to a lot of statistics that show that the majority of crimes are committed by poor people. My answer to that would be that poor people are more likely to be arrested and convicted. If we look at the amount of money stolen by men like Bernie Madoff, or by the mismanagement of the banks and investment firms that caused the 2008 depression, I'd guess it far surpasses the amount taken in crimes like convenience store robberies over the same period.

IS money the root of all evil? No. People are. Evil people exist at all levels of the economic spectrum. Greed isn't a matter of how much you have, but how much you want. The big problem comes when evil people take their greed to a national scale, have too much power over the government, and suck in taxpayer money.

I can't help remembering those Hewlett students. They taught us how the other half lives and how to drop 'R's from the ends of words. We taught them what it was like to go to a diverse school, and about cheesesteaks and shoo-fly pie, and to pronounce "water" as "wooder." We made good music together. We had fun. As their bus pulled away to take them home, they waved and called out the windows to us, and we waved and laughed back.

They were good people, and so were we.
I hope we all still are.


1 comment:

Richard Slater said...

That was a fun tour. I stayed with Stan Brooks, reporter from 1010 WINS.


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