Dear readers and friends,
My third Trollopian Sunday afternoon will differ from the previous which have been Trollopian in their horsiness and horsy-people. This one is the sheer theatricalisation of class, the ostentation of it — from big cars to super-expensive designer hats. The overt unashamed class-ridden nature of US society and its tragic undergirding in what’s happening to US schools and college.
Appropriately enough as I return to reading Trollope seriously, and today began Framley Parsonage what made the afternoon Trollopian was its overt staging of class. If anyone anywhere anymore thinks there is no class conflict in the US — where can he or she have been hiding out since the Occupy groups and Romney’s dismissal of 47% of us as unworthy citizenship even — if anyone still clings to that, he or she should have been at the Loudoun County Point-to-Point Hunt meet yesterday afternoon.
Hitherto when we arrived, we turned off the road onto the vast meadow at the third sign. This time we were led to turn off where the property seemed to end and had to drive up a meadow straight onto the grass. There we found (not common) that the meadow was parked in. Rows and rows of cars. We got out our stuff, carried it to the central place we had sat hitherto and instead of seeing a row of trees and sitting on the high point of a curve from which we could see the full circle of the horses’s run, on that high curve were parked these enormous (road-hog) vehicles. Each with a little stick which said “patron” and his or her number. Each had set up tables, chairs, only one or two with tents with people about having parties, the women wearing fancy hats, the men too got up in their sports garb. Luncheon food, lots of liquor. We had to sit down near the fence; we were closer but we felt odd. Gradually the space between the people on the curve and we below filled up with people like ourselves with blankets or lawn chairs and picnics.
I asked one woman standing near one of these cars, and she said this year the two “hunting” groups had combined, but I saw no sign of it in the booklet we got. I did see many many more ads, and drawn illustrations of where the horses were going to run.
Usually local society with women in fancy hats and huge barbecues and friends to show off with were on the other side of the race track in a designated area on another high curve. The difference was twice as many sets of people with their tents and paraphernalia.
In the event when the races started we could easily walk past this new row of privileged person with fat cars to see the horses running part of the way. There were also areas surrounded by temporary fences where someone was trying to grow trees. I wondered if the racing course would last much longer.
When we came to the paddock on the other side of the track I could watch owners, friends, jockeys (increasingly women) circling and chatting. The usual bookie was there. The Admiral bet twice but both times the horse was early on out of the race, so he felt bad and did not bet after that. Was it my imagination or were there more people showing off, more in these imitation Anglo-outfits. There were more tents with extravagantly expensive fanciful hats. I heard women talking of their designer clothes. One hat, vast, black, the Admiral thought looked good on me (Yes I tried several one), but $130 was the price tag.
At one edge of the crowd on both sides were people in vans selling hot dogs, ice cream. At the other high up the house of the plantation-owning family 150 years ago. Yvette and I had visited there with a DC-JASNA group.
Later in the afternoon a man came by doing a survey. We answered his questions which seemed to try to discover how much money we spent in Loudon county. Not much as we brought our food, entrance as a plebian was $5 an adult, so $15 for all 3 of us.
We got into a conversation with him about the extraordinary high fees now charged for college in the US. Extortionist. Now it’s true that some take on huge debt that is crushing and does crush them — but increasingly in the US people are sending their kids or going themselves to community colleges, not finishing the degree either. He said it was “tragic.” I agree because that means that few people can cross the divide into good education, fulfillment of their gifts (they don’t even learn what they are). The well-born and wealthy learn what their gifts are, can travel and are introduced to powerful (hence interesting) people but we (meaning myself at least) lousily born, and very low middling indeed can turn only to what we find in books and those few genuinely stimulating people that exist and can convey something of themsevles — and if we are deprived even of these ….
“Teach for America”, the charter school movement in the US and other groups are working to destroy the curriculum of the lower public schools too, cutting their budgets and insisting only vocational/professional (career) training is needed. (We wouldn’t want anyone thinking, would we?)
Yes it’s a tragedy for the whole country too — for the society loses out as it throws many of its fine people away.
It is good to remember that when Trollope ran for public office in Beverly, Yorkshire (and lost) he was for public education for all, starting at a young age. But the scene we surveyed would have been banally real to him.