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One Woman's Opinion

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An American Story

Mary Wakefield Buxton

by Mary Wakefield Buxton

Urbanna, Va.— How is it some Americans look on hard-working fellow Americans who manage a successful business and devote their lives toiling long hours necessary to run a business as “the rich”?

Yes, such derisive sobriquet is sadly popular now in some quarters unaware of the massive effort that goes into operating a business. It’s as if it’s now thought of, by many, as somehow “bad” to become successful. Perhaps some even believe “the rich” do nothing to achieve success and that somehow earnings just fell from the sky into their pockets all the while they were lolling on hammocks in the backyard while sipping mint juleps.

The truth is, people who own a going business work hard and take constant risks. They don’t have 9 to 5 jobs with every weekend off, lunch hours, paid holidays, health, pension plans or insurance benefits given to them. Most work around the clock to meet payroll. There is no such thing as job security or unemployment benefits.

How is it we have lost sight of the connection of hard work and riches and the fact we are all connected to poverty . . . and most of us live our entire life just one paycheck away from inability to pay our bills.

Everyone came from dire poverty. My ancestors tens and thousands of years ago migrated north to England from the Iberian Peninsula caves. They grunted and groped for food just like everyone else’s ancestors. No one owns poverty; it’s a common denominator for everyone. Life wasn’t easy for any of our forefathers and it’s good to reflect on this.

My maiden name dates back to 1000 A.D. with the earliest recorded mention of a theatrical family by the name of Wakefield that traveled from town to town presenting allegories that taught moral lessons. My family crest contains three owls—creatures of the night that supposedly symbolize wisdom.

My ancestors all lost their lands when William of Normandy conquered the rugged little island in 1066. They became slaves overnight, (we all come from slaves), and made up the lower classes in England, working for the local lord for many centuries in a serfdom or other menial job until 1872, when my then 12-year-old grandfather came to America with a dream but without a penny to his name to start a new life.

America was a land of opportunity at that time where hard work paid off. Grandfather had worked in English brass factories since he was 9 years old, and started working as an electrician in Cleveland just as gas lighting was being replaced by electric power. (He was proud to have wired Rockefeller’s home.)

When Tom Edison invented his light bulb, Grandfather patented a simple brass fixture that converted gas lamps to electric. His success translated to jobs in my hometown for many years. He worked hard all his life. Once his factory burned to the ground and there was not a dime of insurance or government money, and he started all over again. Yes, he built that business.

I returned to York, England, once in search of relatives and visited a 600-year-old pub. A lone man stood at the bar drinking a pint of ale. I was startled. He looked just like my father.

“Are you a Wakefield?” I asked.

“I be George Wakefield,” he answered proudly using a verb form right out of Shakespeare. I stood there looking back three generations into the face of my humble roots.

It was one of those moments when one finally gets it. At last I understood what America meant to the world and what my grandfather’s arrival had meant for our family. 

Grandfather was just one of millions of immigrants lucky enough to escape dead-end, rigidly class-bound lives in Europe and arrive to America during a time when a man with a dream and the willingness to work hard could reach any goal.

But our nation has changed. Taxes and excessive regulations have stopped new business, jobs and opportunity. Someone who starts a business in Urbanna today, for example, faces four layers (town, county, state and federal) of government taxes, licenses and regulations (now, the UN wants to levy Americans with a “global tax”), and pay a multitude of payroll taxes for every employee hired. The business owner also needs a team of lawyers and CPAs to advise every move through a web of complicated government rules.

Once in America, “the poor” could become “the rich” by hard work. But socialism, an idea based on obsessive fear that someone, somewhere might be making more money than someone else, has changed this nation. Now a dream and hard work does not necessarily lead to success. The “rags to riches” stories of yesteryear that built America to the greatest nation on earth are now few and far between.


posted 10.10.2012

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