Wednesday, July 23, 2008

All this gas talk reeks of classism

By LindaBeth

You know, I'm really starting to get sick of all the "news" stories about rising gas prices and how that's affecting family summer vacations. Several times a week I hear, read, or see some sort of report about how people are "coping" with having to cancel vacations and instead are creating their travel experience at home (i.e., having a luau in your backyard because you can't afford to go to Hawaii). There's even a cute name for them: Stay-cations.

This is by and large the hot gas-related story of the summer. The gist of the story? Woe is me, gas is so expensive that we can't afford to take our family vacation, we're sooo stressed out over it, we're handling this stressful and tragic situation the best we can by having a pretend glamorous vacation at home.

Ahem, privilege, anyone? Honestly, I really don't feel all that bad for the families who are so economically privileged that they can actually afford to take off of work (or are privileged enough to have paid vacation time) and can go on a family vacation. Why should I?

I'd say I was solid lower-middle to middle class growing up. We went on a vacation every year: a week at my grandparents' condo in the Southern Tier of New York, less than 3 hours from home. Why? Because it was free. A few summers we didn't go; those years we visited my aunts, uncles, and cousins in New England. Besides the travel costs of my parents' station wagon? Also, for the most part, free.

We never went on what you might call a family vacation. And up until now, I didn't realize that going on some wonderful elaborate trip was some sort of innate American right such that we ought to spend valuable news time lamenting that middle class families this year can't afford to drive halfway across the country and stay in a resort for a week. Heaven forbid for a summer you actually spend that week doing activities--gasp!--in your own general region. Or that you might now have to vacation--shock!--every other summer. Or, that you--horror!--spend time socializing with friends and neighbors. In an age where we hardly know our neighbors, and where most people are unfamiliar with the gems and resources in their own town, is it really all that huge a loss that the privileged Americans have a Staycation?

Why are middle and upper-middle class families and their precious Disney vacations the face of the rising cost of gasoline and not the working class families who lived month to month as it was before the exponential price increases...who maybe have to skimp on food or medical services, and for whom a Myrtle Beach trip isn't even on their radar? Instead of moping about being stuck at home, maybe some of these families should spend part of their summer volunteering for charities who help those who will only ever hear about DisneyWorld in the stories told by other more fortunate kids.

(Cross-posted to Smart Like Me.)

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