Who’s a V.I.P. anyway?

I don’t mind rich people, I really don’t. It’s the snooty ones that bother me. And a friend reminded this morning that everyone I know is financially rich compared to everyone else in the world.

But sometimes I get confused. Last Friday I went to the Frida Kahlo exhibit opening at the Tucson Museum of Art. Members and media (me) were invited to a reception at 6 p.m., but I arrived around 5:40 p.m.

The museum greeter promptly stuck a VIP sticker on me as I blurted, “I don’t know if I’m a VIP or not.” She asked who I was. “Well, I’m media,” I replied.

“OK, you’re VIP.” The doors to the exhibit hadn’t opened yet. Around 50 fancily dressed people munching on spicy meatballs, chips and guacamole were mingling in the foyer. I was wearing jeans and an oversized sweater. VIPs apparently got free wine, which wasn’t too shabby. I chose Oregon mixed red.

Here’s the strange part: I’m a VIP, I thought to myself. It didn’t matter if I wasn’t dressed as snappily as the others, and damn, even VIPs weren’t allowed into the exhibit early. It was only about seeing and being seen.

These people think I’m one of them. I’m wearing the special black and gold sticker. I’m special.

This is really stupid, I figured, going back and forth in my mind, shocked that I was feeling like a bigwig because of some silly sticker.

Maybe folks who make a hefty million or more annually always feel bigger than the rest of us. I’ve never let fame bother me; I’ll talk to anyone. Maybe the top earners are  clueless, like when Romney said he’d bet $10,000 to a fellow Republican candidate at a recent debate. I’d bet a dollar, maybe five, if I was really sure of something.

After his Florida primary win, Romney said he was concerned about the middle class: “I’m not concerned about the very poor. They have a safety net.”

Meanwhile, we’ve become more and more polarized in American society. NYT columnist David Brooks thinks VIPs and non-VIPs should spend more time together. Most VIPs are probably happy with their lot: Mitt paid 13.9 percent of his income — all from investments — in taxes last year. His father, George Romney, started the tradition of releasing tax returns as a Republican presidential contender in 1967. And his tax rate was a whopping 44 percent.

Yup, I guess supposed VIPs who imagine that really poor people have a safety net are pretty confused, even more than me. They just don’t know it.

And what I really don’t like are when angry Republican candidates thoughtlessly whip up hatred and fear, and don’t mind letting more Americans fall into that ripped safety net.

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