I was simply going to share my thoughts on this in a brief blurb on Facebook, but I soon discovered I can not confine my rage to such a tiny diaglogue box. Charles Murray today had an article published in the Washington Post, here, that has had me beside myself all day.
Murray started out with what seemed a possibly reasonable premise, that the left doesn't really get the right on a very basic level. But he then proceeds directly to reductio ad absurdum. That's where I got pissed.
Even with the link you will miss the print version's formal 10-question quiz to determine whether or not you are one of those New Elites Murray says the Teapartiers claim are "out of touch with America," then goes on to say the TPers are "right" (not making this up), even citing Glenn Beck's ravings as perhaps justified and maybe even true and correct.
Well I'll be god damned!
Some of the items in the quiz are mentioned in the linked article, though not in quiz form, a quiz which, from all appearances was thought up by Jeff Foxworthy (You might be an elite IF...". I will list here for your convenience the entire quiz that will decide whether or not the Tea Party actually has your number as an out-of-touch-with America "elite" (I have not changed a word):
- Do you know who Jimmie Johnson is? (The really famous one, not the football coach). Yes/No
- Can you identify military ranks by uniform insignias? Yes/No
- Do you know what MMA and UFC stand for? Yes/No
- Do you know what Branson, MO, is famous for?
- Have you ever attended a meeting of a Kiwanis or Rotary Club?Yes/No
- Do you know who replaced Bob Barker as host of "The Price Is Rght?" Yes/No
- Have you ever lived in a town with fewer than 25,000 people? (During college doesn't count) Yes/No
- Can you name the authors of the "Left Behind" series? Yes/No
- Do you live in an area where most people lack college degrees? (Gentrifying neighborhoods don't count) Yes/No
- Can you identify a field of soybeans? Yes/No
The answer key to this quiz might amaze you. If you answer "yes" to 0-2 of these you are, in fact, one of the "New Elite" and have no earthly ties to "ordinary" America. If you answer "yes" to 3-7 "you need to get out more." If you Answered yes to 8-10, "it doesn't matter whether you went to Yale or Georgetown. You're part of the American mainstream."
Murray says we're "touchy" about being regarded this way. I can't speak for anyone else, but I sure as hell am.
Murray also says, citing Glenn Beck, we've "taken over the country." I see. Then Election Day should be a piece of cake for Dems. Relax. We're in control of this circus.
Well fucking excuuuuse me! Apparently the the fact NASCAR holds no charms for me until they replay the Big Wreck a few times and did not know (and still don't care) who Jimmy Johnson is puts me in a league with that howling elite Howard Dean (Yawoooo!); that I don't watch Mixed Martial Arts or Ultimate Fighting Competition on the teevee (even though I am martial arts trained) means I am some sort of highbrow; that I prefer Nashville to Branson makes me some sort of country music snob (I had a hard time typing that one through the wheezing caused by laughter); that I've never attended a Kiwanis or Rotary Club meeting means...means...Jesus, I can't even imagine what this does to my standing as a "real" American, but obviously I'm doomed as doomed can be; that although the city in which I reside has less than 25k population, greater Laurel, MD, holds near 100,000 souls, meaning I'm not from Podunk anymore (it used to be, but I didn't live here then); that though I am aware of the name of at least one of the "Left Behind" authors because how does one escape this information, but don't know them both, I am either too inquisitive or not enough, I just don't know; that I live in an area where...HOLD ON!! I think...I THINK...Prince George's County, MD, may just have a majority of its populace without college degrees. I'm not sure. Frankly I don't care. I'm too out of touch; But I, like anyone who's ever been to Delaware, been involved in the Civil Rights or Labor movements, can recognize a beanfield, which gets me points, as does my ability to recognize the meaning of military rank insigniae (I worked for years at Bethesda Naval Hospital, so I'd damn well better). That gives me 2 definite yeses. That makes me One of Those. Not having quite made it to less than double the poverty level (one of the most meaningless financial/demographic formulas ever devised) doesn't even get me into the "You need to get out more" group.
Oh yeah. I did know (though still cannot understand) that Drew Carey had replaced Bob Barker as host of The Price is Right. Whew! I only need to get out more. (I knew it, I do not watch it). Murray says we can discuss "Mad Men" or a few other "trendy" shows, but apparently not "The Price is Right" or perhaps "Minute to Win It" or "America's Got Talent." Yeah, I know. What a bunch of dipshits we are.
And "elites" "cluster" and "marry each other." Really? Murray cites some unnamed couples from various elite universities who have done this very thing. Marry someone you met in college? That's a new one. He doesn't bother to tell us who many of this small sampling are, but one of the couplings involved a 3rd year cardiology resident marrying a 3rd year pathology resident. Sounds like we're doomed for sure.
I am no stranger to elistist snobbery, and it pisses me off every bit as much as this article. But this article is telling us we are all elitist snobs ("elites" is not what I take it Murray really means here. All my friends are "elite").
Murray might have included in his quiz "Have you ever attended a Klan rally? Extra points question: Unintentionally?"
Never mind I only was born and worked at Georgetown, never actually attended any classes there, let alone Harvard. Never mind my having been born to poor parents neither of which got past the 8th grade (they were both brilliant autodidacts, but there's no GED for that), or that I grew up in a crazy, violent, inner city neighborhood decades before gentrification began. Never mind I eschewed (Whoa! He said "eschewed!" Fucking elite!) NASCAR for drag racing which I didn't watch on the teevee but participated in. Never mind my 40 years involvement in fire/rescue as a dumb-ass yahoo volunteer.
Eric Hoffer, Studs Terkel, Cesar Chavez; Norman Cousins (to represent gifted academic achievers), those guys were part of the elite. Wendell Berry is.
Never mind. Just never mind.
Read the linked article if you have the time. The quiz above, word for word written by Murray and included in the print edition, really says it all. The Tea Party is right. We who have managed to live with faith and passion regardless of the financial diffculties, personal setbacks, congenital defects (such as undereducated parents who somehow made themselves elite for real), unfortunate events, illness, loss, failure to be born wealthy, we still, by dint of having accreted some taste and intellect despite our humble upbringings (or even those not-so-humble, because goddamit, even privilige yieds a lot of superfine individuals who just don't give a rat's ass about Jimmy Johnson or Ultimate Fighting which may well be this generation's version of "wrasslin'," with a thin veneer of respectability applied. Screw the Mystic Plumber as Physicist and Protector of the Nation's Health. He is now officially out of touch with "real" America. Hey, it gets no more real than keeping our shit from backing up into the streets. (Borrowed that line, apologies to D., but it's so goddam true).
There are references in the article to "The Bell Curve" and "Bobos in Paradise," as though these out-of-context mentionings somehow tie it all together, this sinister club that's taken over the country. Not taking, taken.
No, we're all out of touch. If we know shit, if we are not amused by gladitorial competitions, if we are not all rednecks per Foxworthy, then we are not only the New Elite, but we are clueless about our nation and its people.
Except that's bullshit.
Dude! If you know what a beanfield looks like, have you ever walked in one? Worked in one? Lived alongside those workers like I did at age 15? Those are your elites my man. Those are the people who still show up even though life, for them, generally sucks like you can't even imagine.
I got your fucking beanfield right here.
Oh, and WaPo, cancel my subscription. I was never a paper boy but the guy who delivers this shit now does it drive-by style. Talk about out of touch. Jesus...