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by Bethanie Morrissey | Los Angeles Last year I let a family member move in with me. I’ll call her my niece. My niece was down on her luck and needed a place to stay while she got on her feet. As it turns out, she was actually down with drugs and needed a place to lie on the couch while she got on the phone. But anyway. I came home one day and was looking for my iron, so I could iron clothes to wear to work. (“Work is that place you go to,” I explained to her, “and they pay you to do things for them. Yes, like that time you took the baggie to some guy named Raoul in the parking lot of the grocery store nearby. Rather like that, only more regular, and legal.”) Anyway, my niece said, “Oh, I loaned the iron to my friend Rachel.” I puzzled over this for a bit. She loaned my iron to some girl I barely knew? She loaned my iron to some girl she barely knew?! Would I loan any of her items to a friend of mine? Let me think. No. I wouldn’t. So why would she? The clue lies in the wording. “I loaned the iron…” THE iron. Not YOUR iron, Auntie Bethanie, THE iron. The local iron. The iron that existed here before I came and is therefore part of the landcape. Like the sun, the trees, and the street. Belonging to nobody, or everybody. So let’s really parse what Barack Obama says to plumbers and other people who’ve done something with their lives besides lecture like a lawyer turned college professor turned professional pied piper: “I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.” I think the most important word in that sentence really is “the.” THE wealth. Not your wealth, says Obama, because it’s not yours. And I’m pretty sure he doesn’t intend to spread HIS too thin. I have a feeling his daughters will be taken care of before anyone else’s kids. Snide comments aside, Obama said THE wealth because that’s how he thinks of it. Community property. Belonging to everyone. Just THERE, like sunlight, a fact of life that we determine how to utilize. To Obama, it’s not something that belongs to anyone. Not something you created, earned, or own. Just something that you somehow managed to get hold of, maybe by picking it off a tree, and now you need to share what came from that tree. And don’t worry. That tree will always bear fruit. It always has, right? Well no, it hasn’t, but only the gardener who planted it realizes that. The lawyer who comes along representing the neighbors who’ve been eying that fruit tree doesn’t know, or care, how it got there. It’s there now, isn’t it? And it isn’t your tree anymore. It’s THE tree. CRO Bethanie Morrissey is an English teacher in Los Angeles and a veteran of the US Navy. She loves writing, cats, and her Mac. copyright 2008 Bethanie Morrissey

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