Class Bigot of the Year
Ode to Stephen Fowler — the "worst husband ever" from ABC's Wife Swap
On January 30th 2009, the "reality TV" show Wife Swap featured a wealthy venture (vulture) capitalist Stephen Fowler — a British ex-patriate who resides in San Francisco's gentrified Noe Valley with his trophy wife Renee, whose weight loss consulting business is centered on New Age follies. Fowler swapped wives with Alan and Gayla Long, a working class Midwestern family from rural Missouri in America's heartland. The object of the show is to pit two diametrically opposed people together for two weeks to create just the right amount of tension, but also to provide each side the opportunity to learn something from each other. But that did not happen with Stephen Fowler.
Dear Mr. Fowler:
Having recently returned from England where I presented at a human rights conference in London, I was just informed of your controversial antics on national television. It is the ramifications of your behavior on the “reality TV” show “Wife Swap” aired on January 30th 2009 which prompts my letter. I am an anomaly in my “podunk” Rust Belt Midwestern community: I am a university-educated social justice activist and author, politically progressive, and decidedly non-theist.
The effort expended to convince many in the Ohio Valley region to embrace a progressive political ideology and support a liberal black American president has been enormous. Many in communities such as mine, similar to Alan and Gayla Long’s, have generations of harbored deep-seeded mistrust of anyone who is college-educated and politically liberal. This vast region comprising a significant number of average Americans endured scorn and contempt for decades, generously doled out by America’s privileged classes. America’s poor and working classes have been repeatedly let down by the intellectual and political elite who always claim to care about them during every election campaign, but promises often rang hollow. Their needs have long been ignored and dismissed — hence their mistrust and reticence to welcoming progressive ideas.
Your cheap shots aimed at Gayla Long about her lack of “global awareness” embody the main reason why my work as a social justice activist has been made even more difficult than it previously had been. How can those of us living in “podunk towns” avoid being “globally aware” when the mainstream news media goes out of its way to ignore the plight of this nation’s poor and working classes in the Midwest, and in the southern coalfields of Appalachia? Instead, we are inundated with stories showcasing other places and other people’s problems while ours are always dismissed. In the Midwest or in the coal regions of Appalachia, a disaster that occurs gets maybe two minutes of coverage on national news, but a minor disruption in New York or California monopolizes the newscast for a week.
Your mistreatment of Gayla Long as a guest in your home and your blatant contempt for all poor uneducated overweight Americans, encapsulates the reason why so many underprivileged Americans (who lack access to healthy foods and basic health and dental care) despise intellectuals who champion progressive causes; stubbornly clinging to their guns and Bibles, voting against their own interests, and against the interests of advancing our society as a whole.
Your passive-aggressive abuse of Mrs. Long was not merely “hamming it up” for the show, as your shambolic back-handed “apology” suggests. What you displayed was gratuitous cruelty. Your nationally televised escapade gave the Bill O’Riellys, Rush Limbaughs and Sarah Palins of this country more than enough ammunition to successfully undermine the hard work of ALL progressive social justice activists — including those of us who didn’t win out in the race for life’s social prizes and rewards, and who are at the grassroots level of America’s progressive movements.
Several months after your disastrous television debut, the public outrage you sparked among this nation’s less fortunate has been aimed vicariously at all progressive politicians — such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Barack Obama— who, in the minds of many Americans, are representative of every self-absorbed class bigot (like yourself) masquerading behind trendy liberal causes while continuing to be responsible for keeping the majority downtrodden, poor, uneducated, without real opportunities and without access to healthcare.
You are representative of the archetypical rich elitist stereotype held up by neoconservative talking heads as they sing to a choir of gun-toting uneducated hillbillies: another “limousine liberal” attacking the very country and people that you live/work/leech off of — a nation where 70% of the population struggles just to put cheap unhealthy foods on the table and keep life-sustaining utilities from being shut off; people for whom the best health foods, travelling, university educations, fitness club memberships, salons, and culturally enriching entertainment venues are luxuries that are as far out of reach as a day trip to Sedna.
During both world wars, it was mostly the “clueless Americans” from the “lower class” families throughout the middle of the country who gave their lives and bailed out Britain and France. Two years after the end of WW II in 1947, the Truman Doctrine followed by the Marshall Plan pledged an enormous amount of American financial aid for a generous program of European economic recovery — money taken away from investing in our own needy citizens. This is why Europe and Britain were able to rebuild and afford social programs and national health care — while we go without! And international class bigots like you dare to insult those same Americans?
For the past 65 years, Europeans have enjoyed longer life expectancies and higher living standards on the dime of poor working class American’s tax dollars that benefited everyone else — except Americans. It was the tax dollars of working class Americans that funded the financial aid package to rebuild European nations after WW II. Who do you think paid for the Truman Doctrine and Marshall Plan, which made social benefits and socialized medicine affordable for Britain and France? The Tooth Fairy?
Every day, 122 poor uninsured Americans die for lack of access to healthcare, 1 in 5 foreclosures are due to unaffordable medical bills, 1 in 4 bankruptcies are due to unaffordable medical bills and extremely high prices on medicine. Most Americans struggle just to afford cheap food and a roof over their heads and have never been able to afford to go on “holiday.”
You and the rest of the comfortable classes in Britain and Europe have enjoyed generous social programs and safety nets, initially made possible because of working class Americans whose taxes funded Europe’s economic recovery after WW II. And the thanks we get is being put down for ourweight, our inability to afford educations and travel, lack of access to afford healthy foods, and being “militaristic” and “fascist.”If it wasn’t for our military overwhelmingly comprised of our “lower classes” who have been deprived of any opportunity and healthcare while our taxes funded the rebuilding of Britain and everyone else, you would not have had the luxury of growing up with access to low-cost high quality medical and dental care so that your advanced education and opportunity to achieve economic success would have been possible.Your parents would not have had a comfortable life made possible by the security that comes with having access to health and dental care and generous social safety nets so that you could go to a prestigious university.
If not for the decades of social benefits and post-war recovery funded off the backs of America’s poor and working classes, it would be you — not the majority of struggling Americans — living in a “podunk town” with nothing. It was thanks to President Harry S. Truman — a “simple uneducated” man from a “podunk” town in Missouri — that the Marshall Plan came to fruition ensuring that Britain and the rest of Europe got generous post-war bailouts; without which Britain would have remained a pile of rubble and ended up as Hitler’s outhouse.
You owe ALL Americans a hell of a lot more than just a self-serving apology for coming here just to spit in our faces by lording your privilege, wealth, and education over America’s working poor. You can begin apologizing by repaying your share of Britain’s benefits made possible from American tax dollars funding the Marshall Plan.
Every disenfranchised American that you “took the piss on” for not having had the privileges, opportunities and advantages that you’ve enjoyed is your place-keeper.
Perhaps what is missing from your global awareness repertoire and your well-rounded university education is a real working knowledge of what foods are available and affordable to America’s poor. A simple crash course that would provide you with some sorely needed enlightenment along those lines would be for you to take “The Food Stamp Challenge” for a month. Then you will see why malnourishment and obesity are not necessarily paradoxical.
Perhaps you should also add to your personal library a book that would broaden your education on why “middle America” is in the state that it is. That book is titled Classism For Dimwits and is available on Amazon.com. I am sure it would not be too difficult for you to digest, given your superior education. Maybe you will also see why lack of any real safety net and opportunities due to generations of paternalism has left so many Americans with no hope outside of stubbornly clinging to their guns, patriotism, and Bibles.It will provide you with some sorely needed insight about the country and its people that have benefited you and the rest of your socio-economic class without an ounce of gratitude or appreciation for us — whom you’ve shown nothing but contempt for, yet whom you claim to care so much about.
Jacqueline Sarah Homan, Author: Divine Right: The Truth is a Lie