Rollin' in 02332
We spent the weekend at my brother-in-law’s house in Duxbury, Massachusetts. We had a grand ole time, beaching and basking and rolling through the bro-in-law’s ‘hood in our rusty Subaru blasting Ted Nugent, which was enough to send the locals scurrying to the safety of their cedar-shingled mansions.
I found Duxbury to be at once compelling and disturbing in its beautiful sameness. This is the sort of town where a million bucks buys you a “starter” home; the bro-in-law dropped $900k last summer and is now embarking on a quarter-million dollar renovation. It’s a nice house, but it’s one of the most modest in the area. In Duxbury, there are no paint-peeling farmhouses falling in on themselves, no ’88 Chevy Cavaliers sitting on cinder blocks in the front yard. In Duxbury, there is only prosperity, or at least the appearance of prosperity. If you never left town, you’d never see hardship in person.
I really like my brother-in-law. He’s smart and funny and charming (probably why he makes enough dough to live in Duxbury in the first place). He and his wife have a 16-month old son. I asked him if the lack of income stratification bothers him, if by living in the absence of poor (or hell, even middle class) people might in some ways be impoverishing to him and his family. He looked genuinely confused by my question. “What would I gain from that?” he asked.
Vermont is no bastion of diversity. But after rolling in Duxbury for a weekend, I find myself more grateful than ever for the relative poverty that surrounds us. This might sound strange, and even elitist: After all, who could feel grateful for poverty but someone who’s not poor? So to be clear, I’m not talking about bone-deep, empty-stomach poverty. I’m talking about the poverty of the working class, where the ’88 Cavalier goes to the junkyard only after it’s been stripped of both outer CV joints, where the farmhouse will stand for another 100-years, looking much the same as it does now.
I was born amongst these people and have lived with them for most of my life. And yet, I still can’t answer my brother-in-law. Except to say this: What’s to be gained? I’m not certain. But in their absence, I know full well that something is lost.