February 26, 2010
We Are Being Governed by the Elite? Oh, Really?By Jim Yardley
According to all I hear from the media, both the dinosaur media types, and the conservative talk-radio/TV types, the "elites" are running the country.
Now I'm not always the smartest kid in class, so I asked myself, just who are the "elites"? Who exactly are these supposed betters that are running things for us? Sounds like a reasonable place to start trying to understand what is going on in Washington, or Albany, or Sacramento, or East Nowhere, North Dakota.
A simple dictionary definition describes the "elite" as the best of any group. Sounds OK, but what about the word "best"? Again, the dictionary comes to the rescue. The best is simply something of the "highest quality."
So let me see now if I get this. The folks we have as our political leaders are considered the elite, by news media types who think that they themselves are part of the elite. Both groups view themselves and each other not as merely "good," nor even just "better," but clearly the "best." But do they mean the best of that group that represents all Americans? If they do, then I'll have to confess that my definition of the "best" is a little different than theirs.
To me, the very best Americans are the young men and women who have volunteered to serve in the Armed Forces. I know that when I was in uniform I was sure the "elites" were truly idiotic, but I believed in my country and that our politicians would at least try to do what was right. I'm sure most of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines feel the same way today. It's their willingness to subject themselves to hardship, danger, and the risk of death trying to do what's right that makes them the elites.
The best among us do things like lead Brownie and Girl Scout Troops or Cub Scout and Boy Scout troops or coach Little League teams. They are the elites.
They are the thousands of men and women who are awakened from a sound sleep to leap out of bed, go to the volunteer firehouse, and rush off to try and save your burning home. They are the elites.
They are the people who have given up huge amounts of their lives to become paramedics for those same volunteer fire departments who also rush off - but this time it's to save your life. They are the elites.
They are the ladies who sweat over stoves preparing for the local charity's bake sale. They are the elites.
They are the folks who think nothing of picking up the mail for their elderly next door neighbor and dropping it off to them because "they're having a little trouble getting around these days." They are the elites.
They are the people who each Thanksgiving donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to their church, or synagogue, or some local food bank to help feed those who have less than they do, regardless of how little those givers have themselves. They are the elites.
Our self-proclaimed "elites" might be excused for their hubris. They have common attributes that isolate them from that group called "all Americans." They are all the children of privilege. Not that they were all born with silver spoons in their mouths, but nearly all went to fancy colleges and universities, and a surprising number became lawyers.
So within a group defined by their common experiences, these Ivy League intellectuals have every right to call themselves "elite." I think, considering how little they actually contribute to our country that they are much more like the Mandarins of ancient China.
For hundreds of years in China, a select few studied, supported in their bids for power by already powerful relatives and patrons, and passed rigorous examinations to become Mandarins, or part of the ruling bureaucracy. It all came down to getting their tickets punched, and memorizing the right answers. And we all know how well the Mandarin system worked out for them when confronted with the dynamic West. Sort of like "Hope and Change" is working out for us.
Every now and then you should remember that the "elites" designed, built and controlled the course and speed of the Titanic. The "elites" designed the Maginot Line, and look how well that worked out for France. Mandarins dreamed up the Great Wall of China. How many waves of Mongol invaders did that actually stop?
Remember these things when you think about the "elites" designing, building, and controlling our healthcare.
Remember these things when you think about the "educated classes" designing, building, and controlling the program that they claim will protect us from global warming. Or deciding how much CO2 we can exhale.
Remember these things when you think about these new Mandarins designing, building, and controlling the budget, government spending and the resulting deficit.
Especially remember these things when you pull the drape closed behind you in the voting booth.