Tuesday, October 28, 2008

"The Real America" and the Culture War

Lately, there has been a lot of talk (I'm not going to name any names) about "Real Americans" and "Pro-America" parts of the country.

First off, let me share John Stewart's take on this here and an excellent article by Frank Rich In Defense of White Americans. Both are well worth a look.

Now, on to my own rant.

For a long time, particularly since the Vietnam War era, there has been this great ideological division, called the Culture War, between liberal and conservative Americans. This social divide in recent years has come to center on the "God, Guns and Gays" issues - abortion, gun control, gay marriage, creationism, immigration, prayer in school etc.

In short, social issues that often have little to do with things like the economy or health care.

In recent years, especially in the past decade, we have also seen a carefully fostered division between "intellectual elites" and "red-blooded average joes." Somewhere along the way it was declared that if you think too much or like to eat sushi, you are somehow an exotic species who never leaves the rarefied heights of his urban ivory tower.

The word "elite" has become a slur, somehow. And now both sides of the current presidential race are scrambling to make sure they aren't too "elite" to get elected.

Um... I have a question.

What's wrong with our president being elite? If we don't put our best and our brightest in our top executive position, then who?

Oh...wait... we get this this. Yeah, that worked out well.

Navy SEALs are elite, professional athletes are elite. Our founding fathers? Elite. George Washington? He wasn't just elite, he was the most elite motherf-er in the room.
Abraham Lincoln? Great man, born in a log cabin, came in from the frontier to lead us through our darkest hour. Surely, he wasn't some intellectual elite, was he? He hardly went to school, right?
True, he only had about 18 months worth of formal education, but he read everything he could get his hands on and, on the basis of his self-education, was admitted to the bar as a practicing lawyer (a very elitist profession). He also avoided hunting and fishing, because he disliked killing animals.

In reality, many of the things that make America the only surviving superpower in the world, and the things that are our hope for remaining the greatest nation in the world come from these so-called Urban Elites (not all of whom actually live in cities, mind you). From Ben Franklin to the Wright brothers to the team of scientists, engineers and astronauts who brought us Appollo 11 America has all but defined itself by the brains of these people. At his or her best, the American Intellectual combines learning and intellectual curiousity with common sense, skill and the talent to roll up his sleeves and take the idea from the drawing board to the workshop.

And no, this guy or girl isn't all of us. I couldn't make a flying car in my garage, if I had a garage, but there are those out there who can. But because I don't 'have this particular talent, do I have to resent the ones who do? No more than I resent a pro baseball pitcher because I can't throw worth a damn. Instead, I cheer him on and am proud of him because he's out there winning one for our team.

So why don't we show the same appreciation for our intellectual World Series winners?
The short answer is that we sometimes do, just look at the success of Tom Hanks' Apollo 13 or the handful of other films and books that celebrate the power of real people putting their skills and brains together to solve real problems.

And, guess what? Your "Average Joe?" He's not Larry the Cable Guy, he's a lot smarter than some folks give him credit for, and so's his wife.