By Estelle Nora Harwit Amrani

This year we are facing a very vital election in America. The campaigns have proven to divide and polarize people and send misleading and hateful messages about the people running for office and the issues. We’ve become MORE intolerant of our diversities, turning us into a nation of rude, abusive, uncompassionate, uneducated, and self-righteous monsters. I've been thinking about what's the underlying culprit causing these problems and I think it comes down to how people need to generalize and label, and how that is a reflection on how we think of ourselves. Generalized labels are so much easier to pin on a person or an entity than actual discussion about it. You just toss out a label as a throwing a dog a bone and people rush to grab the bone without wondering if it's even edible. Labels allow you believe, instantaneously, if that person fits your idea of reality or values, and if they're in the “right” crowd or the “right” item to blame. When a person has fear coupled with ignorance it's easier for them to have a stereotype because that way it takes no effort to actually learn about something and see it objectively. For example, take these generalized myths: all rich people are evil and should be punished by taking away more of their money, all big corporations are evil, all smokers should be punished (but not the tobacco companies or the alcohol industry), people should be vegetarians, all doctors and medications are only in it for the money and out to harm you, Israel illegally occupies land and harms Palestinians without cause, Sarah Palin isn't qualified and can't run a government because she’s married with children and is good looking.

But, what happens when someone doesn't fit the stereotypical profile? It throws people into a complete state of confusion scrambling to make that person fit some kind of a label. It's as if people need to hate or feel accepted by hating the same thing. I think it helps fill in the empty spaces in their own lives and gives them something to blame when life isn't going their way. In other words, victimhood. If you can't fit into a person's label, then (in their mind) you deserve to be attacked.

Let's look at one of the issues I mentioned and examine them a little deeper. "All rich people are evil and should be punished by taking away more of their money". Those who are labeled rich earn money that puts them in the 1-2% of the population of Americans. How did they get rich? Some by inheritance (and some blow that inheritance away within a short time), most by hard work and smart planning, some by less than admirable efforts, some by luck. Not all are the same and not all should be treated the same. However, each one of these people pays the highest amount of taxes and most of them give generously to charities. Why should they be singled out and punished for being successful and helpful to people they don't even know? They are helping you, whether or not you want to acknowledge it. The rich do foot the bill for those who have less money and pay no taxes. It worries me that Obama wants this backwards trend to get worse with his tax plan. Clearly, he doesn't understand money and spirituality with responsibility. Isn't it odd that so many wealthy people in Hollywood back Obama? They must feel very guilty for being rich. "Hit me harder!" Masochists.

If we punish success, then what is the message we are sending out? Don't succeed, money is the root of all evil (even though it can and does help), you don't deserve a good life and the ability to help others. How can people call themselves spiritual if they hate money and financial success and prefer to be a victim and martyr? If one is spiritual, then they should wish success for all people and enjoy what they have created for themselves. You know "let your light shine" - yeah, but there are those of you out there really saying, "don't let that light shine too brightly because it's a threat because I don't feel that good about myself. I want my free ride on your back to continue." Hating and being jealous of someone who has money doesn't help you become any wealthier. It doesn't make you any more enlightened. It has the opposite effect. It keeps you in poverty and as a dependent. It would better serve you to ask the rich HOW they did it and if they could help you so you can be rich, too. Work together, supporting one another, instead of opposing one another.

Now, there is another important issue related to being financially wealthy. It means one must respect money and be responsible with it, or we all lose. Unfortunately, we keep learning this lesson from the bigwigs on Wall Street, in the insurance companies and credit card companies, who abuse the public for their selfish gain and mismanage money. For too long they have abused the public trust, our government wasn’t helpful, and we didn't do enough to ensure some important regulations were in place. We, the average investor and public, assumed it was all okay. Some people had good financial advisors who care about them and invested their money wisely so they didn't lose much during the latest crises.

Suze Orman always says something that rings true for me: "People first, then money, then things". If we all functioned in this way, there would be enough for everybody to live well, not just to scrape by, but to really live well. We would all be taking responsibility and there wouldn't be "the bad guys" and negative stereotypes regarding money and power. So, bottom line is, to be a Robbing Hood and say raise the taxes on the wealthiest Americans who are already paying the most and then we'll better off is wrong and is missing the point. It makes victimhood attractive and keeps it as the main operating force. It will heal nothing, teach nothing, ensure nothing. It will mean success is a punishable failure. It will keep people polarized. It is not bringing positive change. It's not a message of which I approve.

© Copyright 2008, Estelle Nora Harwit Amrani