Letter: Rich/poor elephant on lush Berkshire lawn

Rich/poor elephant on lush Berkshire lawn

To the editor:

The Eagle reported that a conversation convened to discuss our creative economy in one of our preternaturally gorgeous locales morphed into a much harder conversation about our "tale of two counties" (Eagle, July 30). That's good. I would hope that no talk about the creative economy gets away with avoiding the rich/poor elephant on the lawn.

I would argue, however, that there is no economic dividing line at Guido's on the Lenox/Pittsfield line. The high school students I taught in South County a few years ago — many of them from isolated hill towns — rival their northern counterparts in poverty.

Poverty. In South County. Not theater-is-too-expensive poverty. I mean a car-and-rent-are-too-expensive poverty. If you — like one of my former students — earned the same hourly wage for the past three years, if you live with your friend's parents because you can't afford an apartment and your car broke down, what would you think about the announcement of a National Endowment for the Arts grant that's meant to make you "more aware of the area's literary legacy"?

I am a 44-year-old master's degree student in writing. I think writers in residence programs sound great, like Tanglewood, Jacob's Pillow, museums, etc. These are the things you can turn your attention to after you've eaten and slept in a warm bed.

My former student and thousands of others like him need jobs that pay a decent wage. Before that can happen, they need the rest of us to acknowledge, even when it affects our wallets, that they deserve a decent wage. Attention homeowners who don't blink at $4,000 toilets, and wedding planners who spend $30,000 on flowers; when you say things like "How can we keep the labor down?" the labor you are talking about is my former student.

Sheela Clary, West Stockbridge


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