This isn't exactly what I planned for our 600th posting to this blog, but sometimes the important takes precedence over the ego gratification. In any event —
Call it cognitive dissonance. Call it functional overload. Call it the arrogance of wealth and power. Whatever you call it, it's causing a lot of problems, and making existing problems worse. Our leaders in Washington and elsewhere — many of which only hold the title by courtesy — have managed to achieve a state of being almost completely divorced from reality. As Peggy Noonan explained in her op-ed piece in this past Saturday's Wall Street Journal ("America Is at Risk of Boiling Over," WSJ, 08/7-8/10, A13), there is now a chasm separating "the political and media class, the universities — and those living what for lack of a better word we'll call normal lives on the ground in America."
As Ms. Noonan noted, there has always been something of a gap between us COCOAs (Concerned Ordinary Citizens Of America) and the political, media, and academic elite. As anyone knows who's ever put in his or her time in college, had anything to do with the media, or suffered through more than a couple of weeks inside the DC Beltway, it's a different world. Whether you call it the Ivory Tower, Hollywood, or Capitol Hill — regardless of the fact that relatively few if any denizens of those rarified atmospheres live in towers, woods, or hills (unless going by the name of Frodo) — there is a distinctly different belief system in place, and that belief system has little if any connection with reality.
Take, as a minor example, a personal peeve of this writer. I'm told that when I speak, it's generally with a "standard" American accent. On occasion (if I'm not watching myself) I'm told I "sound like a southerner," probably as a result of thirty years below Mason-Dixon. People within the DC Beltway seem almost shocked when they find out I was raised in Indiana — Evansville, to be precise (which people on either coast seem inevitably to confuse with Evanston, Illinois, 400 miles away) — and went to school in South Bend. "But you sound so normal, and you're so cosmopolitan!" I guess that's a good thing.
Frankly, I didn't realize that my attitudes were any less parochial than the people with whom I went to high school, or that my cultural background was so far advanced over everyone else in southern Indiana. In Evansville we had (and still have), believe it or not, a symphony, museums, libraries with real books, two universities, opera (light opera, it is true, but opera is opera — and I even got to be a real spear — or at least halberd — carrier in one production), musical and choral groups . . . yeah, and tractor pulls and Fourth of July Parades, the West Side Nut Club (don't ask from whence came the name, because nobody knows) Fall Festival, everything.
The point of this is that when people here inside the Beltway "imitate" a presumably typical Midwesterner, they speak in an accent that would cause anyone on the banks of the Ohio, Wabash, or Mississippi to start edging away while making soothing sounds. Hear a so-called Midwesterner described, and you'd never know that most of us have at least a moderate working knowledge of shoes, automobiles and electrical lighty things. Pass the jug and crumble summore pork rinds in that there burgoo, woodja? (Bleah. Pork rinds in burgoo? No way.)
The fact is that the academic, political, and media elite have an enormous — and growing — contempt for us COCOAs. This attitude of disdain has resulted in an almost total deafness regarding the concerns of most of the people in this country. The Tea Party movement is a case in point. Sure, a lot of the signs are handmade — it's kind of required for a popular movement, don't you think? The problem is that our alleged leaders seem so concerned with belittling and denigrating the Tea Party people as a rabid pack of defrocked Klansmen that they aren't bothering actually to read the signs. (I realize as a uneddikated Midwesterner I shoulda split that there infinitive, but I jes' ain't got it in me.)
Sadly, as Ms. Noonan analyzes the situation (sitchy-ay-shun?), the contempt as well as the overall disconnect is not only getting deeper and wider, it's spreading rapidly. Politicos, academics, and media mavenistas and their friends and allies (or, at least, those who suck up to them — do they really have friends other than themselves?) increasingly view the rest of us wherever we are as unimportant nobodies who only get in the way of their perfect world. There is, to put it bluntly, no other way I can explain why, for example, President Obama made the almost unbelievably stupid move of failing to address the Boy Scouts of America on their 100th Anniversary, or a judge in California decided that an issue not even addressed in the Constitution — kinda required by the 9th and 10th Amendments before it can be considered, by the way — is "unconstitutional."
People are getting just a little steamed up over the elites' perceived inattentiveness and disregard for ordinary people. The shouting, however, is only going to get louder.