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How Con-Men Rule America’s Middle Class

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“Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”

– John Steinbeck

When I was younger my family was too broke to take a vacation to Universal Studios. We had never been, and all really wanted to go.

My Mom found a loophole to get us all in for free: a timeshare sales meeting.

The idea was all you have to do is sit through a sales presentation, and you get day passes for you and your children. No pressure to buy – sans the actual pitch which seemed more like an impressive rally with free bagels in the beginning.

Timeshare montage

My mom lived in a studio apartment and worked from about 6 am until 8 pm, if you include the commute. She pretty much still does. Still, like many Americans, she was barely making ends meet.

So on the way there she made us promise…no pinky swear, about 200 times, not to let her buy anything.

It was working. We had our complimentary bagels while watching a man in a clean, tailored suit use a ridiculous amount of adjectives while presenting a luxurious slide-show of locations to us. During our final “one on one with a representative” though, things became more complicated.

The salesman – getting nowhere with us – switched off with a sales woman who then started using the fact that she was a divorced mother as well.

Trust me” Via -

“Trust me, I’ve been divorced too!” Via –

She swore up and down that the two of us would want to spend more time with our mother despite the fact we did not live with her if it was in a fancy timeshare.

You know, because 12-year-old girls don’t otherwise want their mom, nor do any children. You have to bribe them with more than love and guidance even if it is at the cost of love and guidance because you have to work more to do so. Apparently, this is a known fact in the business world proven since the first caveman to sell snake oil.

 I was 12 and fought tooth and nail. I was livid. (And probably needed a bra that my dad hadn’t haphazardly bought from Sam’s Club with a bass emblem on it.) I mean come on, what the hell did he know about shopping for middle school girls? I still don’t think I’ve ever been able to say the word “tampon” to him without blushing.

Training bra

Still, my mom signed the stupid paper, and they dropped us off in front of Universal Studios.

I have a distinct picture in my mind of the chubby Midwestern saleswoman in her sanitary napkin pink pants suit waving goodbye and shouting “You won’t regret it!” as we took our free passes to the admission.

We had a great day at Universal Studios. My Mom and I share a lifelong obsession with horror movies, and we even got to see the Hitchcock exhibit together. One of my favorite childhood memories is just lying curled up on the couch, using her butt as a pillow while watching his show on AMC. I was admittedly too young to get the plot but just happy to be with my mom. More proof that no one needs Universal Studios or a Time Share to bond with their children.

When we got home, I had to give up guitar lessons for a while, and she had to hire a lawyer to find a way out of it legally.

The repercussions

The repercussions

It put her in far more debt than the actual flights down there. She still barely saw my brother who was already at that age where all you want to do is be with friends or make out with your first serious girlfriend. And I still spent every weekend with her while I could thinking no one in the world knew as much about life as she did.

After 9/11, she finally gave up and moved down south for good to be closer to her parents. It was a crushing blow to me. She was suffering from PTSD after working so close to the site when it happened that she had to witness firsthand bodies dropping from the buildings. I’ll never forget how worried I was while she escaped by foot over the bridge, like so many other New Yorkers, covered in ash and soot the whole way back to Long Island. As if that wasn’t enough, the burn out from her commute and living costs had her looking for a simpler, sunnier and more importantly, less expensive life.

Covered in soot and toxins on 9/11 Via-

Covered in soot and toxins on 9/11 Via-

Money should not have the power to separate families, but it does.

Money should not have the power to kill, imprison or rape; but it does. Money is an imaginary construct that becomes an extension of the person using it. How you use and make your money doesn’t just reflect your character, it exposes it.

If you think a golden portrait of yourself is more important than a poor child’s lunch (see Betsey DeVos new annexing of the free lunch program in public schools.)

Sad lunch vs good lunch Via -

Sad lunch vs good lunch Via –

Yes, that is your prerogative. Yes, that is your right as an American but don’t think I’m going to buy a time share or call you a friend let alone a leader when I see so much pain in the world constantly being exploited so that people like you can meet your sales quota.

This is why it hurts so much that the same people about to be hurt by Donald Trump’s policies are the ones who voted for him.

This has nothing to do with Hillary or party politics. This is you saying, “Wait a sec, that sounds good but who’s getting the short end of the stick?” It is about finally standing up for yourselves to the pushy salesman trying to exploit your vulnerabilities.

There is no easy way out of your economic struggles but there is a way out, and it isn’t fattening the pockets of someone else the second they offer you an easy solution. Even the lowliest con-man knows that.

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Tiana Miller

Tiana Miller

One gnarly dude, man.