Not to Brag, But Apparently I’m a Really Stupid Failure
Posted by Trina Bartlett
In the last few weeks, I’ve been told I’m a stupid failure.
That was news to me.
Up to this point, I always thought I was a fairly bright person and a contributing member of society.
According to some people, I was wrong.
I was wrong because none of my accomplishments have involved making significant amounts of money, and that is how some people define success.
It doesn’t matter that, during my entire academic career spanning high school through graduate school, the lowest grade I ever received was a B. (Just for the record, two of those three B’s occurred when I was an undergraduate less focused on academics and more focused on having fun.)
I’m apparently stupid because I think that caring for other people is more important than accumulating wealth.
It doesn’t matter that I had a professor in graduate school who told me I was the brightest student he’d ever taught.
I’m apparently stupid because I thought the American dream was built on the concepts of dignity and respect for all people — not just for those who share the same religious or political beliefs or for those who have large bank accounts.
It doesn’t matter that I’ve developed and implemented programs that help people who were struggling.
I’m apparently stupid because I didn’t realize those people didn’t deserve any help since it was their own fault that they couldn’t make ends meet.
And, on top of being stupid, I’m also apparently a failure because I have never had a big salary or retirement plan myself.
Not only have I never made a big salary, but I also respect other people who don’t make big salaries: social workers, teachers and people who work for nonprofit organizations or small businesses that often can’t afford to offer health insurance or any other benefits. I also respect people who work hard in tough jobs that have poor pay and benefits, even when the company can afford to pay them but chooses to reward the CEOs instead.
These are the people trying to support their families but are hanging on by a thread. These are people who have diligently made their mortgage payments every month only to see the value of their homes drop well below what they owe because big business, not big government, was jacking up the price of houses by giving loans to those who couldn’t afford them. These are the people who have seen their savings dwindle and their bills grow.
And then there are the people whom most of us take for granted. The people who are almost invisible but who do the jobs someone has to do. The people who do work hard at often unpleasant jobs with no respect. Apparently, I’m stupid for thinking we should appreciate people like the maids, the janitors, the nursing homes aids, etc. who don’t make much money and often receive no benefits. I’m stupid for thinking we should take some responsibility for ensuring these individuals get their basic needs met.
And I’m apparently a stupid failure because I can recognize how so many politicians are more beholden to the big dollars that can finance their campaigns than they are to the people they serve. As someone said to me this week, “Most politicians don’t like poor people.” Of course they don’t. Poor people don’t have any connections or dollars to make large campaign contributions. Neither do most middle-class Americans for that matter, but poor people make an especially easy target to vilify as being lazy and undeserving.
And because of my beliefs, my values and my career, I’m being called a stupid failure by those who think differently than I do.
Ironically, I’m wearing that label proudly.
After all, I’m pretty sure stupid failures with similar passion and beliefs are the people who make big changes in our world. We are, after all, too stupid to know any better.