Monday, February 27, 2017

"Why Should They Talk To Us?"

I could have written this at any time since the election.  But I was apparently not up to it until now.  Please forgive the untimely belatedness.  And please consider, with a generous mind, especially those who are inclined to think differently, “Is this guy maybe on to something, or what?” 

Imprecation after the recent election:  

“We have to talk to each other.”

There is the concept, derived from lifetime experience and augmented by movies and TV shows particularly The West Wing which promoted the idea frequently of a high school phenomenon – and even younger, at snootily exclusive birthday parties – concerning the infamous – or terrific if you are on the victorious side of it – “Cool Kids Table.”

It is not surprising that this appellation is ubiquitously recognized in fiction.  Writers are rarely if ever seated at the “Cool Kids Table”, emerging writer “types” traditionally cast – often by choice although sometimes by exiling ostracism – as eavesdropping observers. 

Which makes sense.  If writers enthusiastically went with the flow – as the “Cool Kids” are required to do to insure their continued inclusion – they would have nothing to write about.  Except, “We teased the heck out of them until they cried.”  And who wants to read about that?  (Especially inveterate “Book Worms”, whom the non-reading “Cool Kids” would most certainty have tortured.)

There is a line from A Thousand Clowns in which a beleaguered social worker complains about a client, “I didn’t like them, so I tried to understand them.  And when I finally understood them, I hated them.”

Be the person invariably ostracized from the “Cool Kids Table.”  (One whose skin is not sufficiently thick enough nor their reading of human behavior appropriately honed enough to perceive the “Cool Kids Table” as posturing bullshit.)

How would you feel about those, kids perennially looking down their “superior” noses at you?  Even if you did understand them.  (When you were not heavily preoccupied, praying for a directed revisiting of a score-settling “Ten Plagues.”)

Okay.  So.  An arguable campaign “cousin” to the deplorable “Cool Kids Table” (and its predictable consequences):

You have political pollsters.  And those pollsters have determined that two distinguishing attributed of those who supported the elected president – and I got a stomachache typing those words – were largely “not college-educated” disproportionately “non-urban.”   

Two determined, elucidating categories derived by professional pollsters who are themselves one can imagine as it feels intuitively accurate…

… college-educated urbanites.   

Who else would be a pollster? 

A “LESS LIKELY TO BE A POLLSTER” REPRESENTATIVE:  “Why would I want to do that?”

Not to say that pollsters would be naturally identified with or regular inhabitants of the “Cool Kids Table”, mathematical tabulators more imaginably cohabiting a discredited outlier table with the writers… along with the renegades, if they deigned to cohabit a table with anyone.  Far from it.

Considerably further from it, however, is the pollsters’ demonstrable dissimilarity to the supporters of the eventual electoral (college) prevailer.  (And there’s that stomachache again.)

Here’s the thing, though.

We hear frequently about “dog whistles”, a clarion concern decrying the coded message of racism.  Consider for a moment the “dog whistle” implications in the labeling of “rural inhabitants without college educations.”  Is it unreasonable for those corralled into those labels to hear an unspoken…  

“Ignorant Yahoos”?

Go back, I submit, to our earliest history.  This intellectual (and cultural) “fault line” has prevailed from “Day One” of the Republic.  (And probably earlier.)  They may have employed “dog whistle” vocabulary when they were talking about it, but at its core, the uncrossable delineator was from the beginning, “sophistication and book learning.”  

(I recall one proposal, arguing that the more educated American voters be allotted an additional vote, while the more dispersed, less uneducated (white, male) members of the electorate receive one.  Though that proposal did not go anywhere, (personal) anecdotal experience suggests that that distinguishing sentiment is still in the air.  (And in the grumpier recesses of my recently discombobulated brain.  Although I thankfully know better.)


As an imaginable unintended consequence, the categorizations ”less educated” and “non-urban” perceived by the pollsters as legitimate indicators as opposed to un-monitored categories such as… any distinction they neglected to consider conveyed to the millions inhabiting those categories a loud and unmistakable message:


Then, at least partially as a retributive “Fuck you” to the “Cool Kids Table”, they threw their allegiance to the elected president.  And when they did so they were vociferously “name-called.”

Why, logically or emotionally, would they agree to engage in a dialogue with those vociferous name-callers?

Tomorrow, in the name of accommodating both sides – which is one more than either side seems to prefer me to – I will tackle the question,

“Why should we want to talk to them?”

(Acknowledging by “we” that I admittedly occupy a position.)

1 comment:

Jonathan Langsner said...

Given Clinton's comment about "the basket of déplorables", the retributive 'Fuck You' may have been aimed more at the explicit insult than in any implicit denigration conveyed by pollsters' categories of analysis. From what one can glean from this perch in the still-frozen North, the RFY was a response to a widespread feeling that the concerns of the lower middle class and working poor were being given short shrift by the Washington (and media) elite, as personified by Hillary Clinton. Being dissed by pollsters may have exacerbated that feeling, but, with respect, I don't think it was the real cause.