The Republicans have accused the Democrats of class warfare because they want to tax the rich. Not to be outdone, the Democrats have accused the Republicans of class warfare for seeking to cut the benefits of the poor and the middle class and for impoverishing them long before that.
So, everybody agrees — and this rare consensus confirms that a state of class warfare will soon break out. The only thing to be settled for individual Americans is which side they are going to be fighting on, presuming that there will be hostilities and not the usual whining.
I was talking with my butler Fothergill about this the other day. I told him that my last experience with warfare, during Vietnam, was quite unsatisfactory.
Even though the soldiers on our side wore proper uniforms, what was most hurtful to our feelings was that some Viet Cong insisted on wearing black pajamas to the battles. How rude was that? Who did they think they were in their pajamas — early, would-be bloggers? “So perhaps we should join the poor and middle class for class warfare against the rich, Fothergill. It would make for a change if I could wage war on people wearing dinner jackets, bow ties and camouflage top hats.”
“I certainly see the appeal of that, sir,” Fothergill said. “As a member of the Amalgamated Butlers Union, Local 1, I feel an obligation to union solidarity, but other factors must be considered. The rich are few but they are very powerful. They will have access to better weapons and they command a vast propaganda machine, which you know as the Fox News Network.”
Fothergill can be an alarmist. I told him the editorial pages of the nation’s liberal newspapers would rally to our cause. That’s when he said, “Should I go ahead and iron the white tablecloth for use in the surrender, sir?” Doomed, perhaps. But how could I put aside my principles and fight alongside the rich just for the satisfaction of being on the winning side for once? Fothergill did make some tempting arguments. The rich would have C rations just like the common people’s army, but in their case C would stand for connoisseur — pheasant in aspic instead of franks and beans.
“Darn it, Fothergill, I cannot desert my people. On the other hand, I have always wanted to be rich myself, as does everybody else in America, so all of us collectively cannot make war on our inner hopes and dreams. What to do?”
“Might I suggest a low-key guerrilla war, sir? That way you could be home in time for dinner and wouldn’t have to do any actual shooting. Your warfare could include writing irritating columns like this one.”
Fothergill further assured me that I wouldn’t need to take to the streets in protests such as the one that has targeted Wall Street lately. Such demonstrations are not my scene. They attract the wrong sort of people — those looking for trouble. But enough about the police. (Just joking, officer.) My fertile mind came up with other stealth strategies that could be employed in low-level class warfare to demoralize the rich.
Liberals in on the plot could start praising Wall Street Journal editorials in public, thus confusing any wealthy people within earshot. Electrically operated bow ties could be designed to surprise and infuriate the well-tailored wearer by turning into little propellers. Middle-class ninjas could invade pro shops at country clubs, replacing all the golf balls with ones with a built-in leftward bias.
“Do you think the rich will sue for peace after such a campaign?” I asked Fothergill. “No, sir,” he said, “they will merely sue.”
“Then I have only one question for you, Fothergill. Is there really a butlers union?”
“Of course, sir. They have wonderful courses for the young apprentice butlers. They learn to polish silver and speak in English accents.”
What a remarkable fellow that Fothergill is — such interesting knowledge and insights. I am so glad I imagined him. I realize now it would be a tragedy to lose him in an outbreak of class warfare.
Fortunately, I also realize the idea is completely preposterous in the American context. That’s no martial trumpet summoning the classes to arms — it’s a kazoo in the mouths of political hacks.
Reg Henry is a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.