Many times in my life I have been accused of wearing a halo over my head and for that reason people have been annoyed at my self-righteousness. In fact, when I was in a college sorority and on pledge night, when each of the pledges was supposed to have one of their foibles pointed out, mine was that was that my halo was tilting. At the time I was deeply infatuated with a guy and finally not necessarily paying attention to the rules.
I point this out now because once more, after hearing David Brooks talking and writing about elitism this past week, I'm again audaciously trying to give David Brooks, the brilliant and successful journalist, a one upsmanship and offer my solutions to America's problems.
As I understand it, David feels that the cultural problems we are having today are entirely due to the elite echelon which he believes has caused resentment among those not considered elite. In other words, those with more means and with more education are looking down on those with less of both of them. How could that be if the Kochs, the Hunts, and their ilk have every means in the world and are just as influential in professing their views as the Kennedys and the Rockefellers?
So here's my take on the problem. It has to do with how we raise our children and how we were raised.
If one was to look at my husband and me, I think some would want to tab us elitists. Our children went to private colleges and both have advanced degrees. We live in a beautiful upscale community and are lucky enough to have the ability to travel and to spend money on our hobbies and interests.
But here's the deal. My husband grew up in a rental apartment with one bathroom for his family of five, worked his way through college and graduate school and, along with his siblings, supported his parents for the last twenty-three years of their collective lives. I worked from the time I was ten, supported my husband through law school on a yearly salary of $5,200, and supported myself through graduate school at a private university by teaching part-time.
When our children were growing up, we lived in a modest suburban community, somewhat diverse, where American values were the barometer for all of the academic and social activities that were offered. Through a combination of social relationships and strong guidance on the part of a well-qualified faculty, I am so thrilled that the experiences from that time happily still live with all of our family to this day.
So who are we to point the finger at for our problems today? Some of it is parenting. When I read of all the problems teenagers are having at these fancy Eastern camps, I'm appalled. I'm a tough love mother who, when I was seven years old and went to overnight camp for the first time, just had to deal with it.
Some of it, it's true, is the government and the non-profits who do not regulate expenditures in a way that will change things around and just instead think money will resolve the problem.
But, and I guess I agree with David on this point, we have splintered into segments of the population with no common idea of what we should be as Americans. Those who support Trump, in my estimation, believe he'll take care of all their problems and they won't have to deal with them. And they also believe that aspiring for more knowledge and information by attending institutions of higher learning or even at the start public schools with a common mission of educating future American citizens are institutions that are unnecessary. In a sense, these "non elite" are no different from the "elite" in the sense that they are solely interested in enjoying the moment. Regardless of category, all are aspiring hedonists.
Now that I am about to become an octogenarian, I frequently look back to the struggles and hard work that eventually produced results. I'm not homeless and I'm not a billionaire and I don't feel victimized or defeated. I know I have done my best and I'm grateful for what I have.
I wish everyone would just get over their past, accept their foibles, use their initiatives to overcome their inadequacies, and develop some pride in the hard work it takes personally and collectively to live in America.
Mimi Pockross is an award-winning author who writes about family, the arts, and education. She is in the process of completing her fourth book, a novel about growing up in America.