Photo: Sundi Hayes, CC BY 2.0
It’s all the rage these days to talk about those “elitist” liberals on the east and west coasts and how “out of touch” they are with “real” America and its values. The argument is that with their educations and wealth they look down on poor rural Americans with disdain. But right now I want to talk about another rampant elitism in America: the elitism of the rural American.
Elitism is about thinking you’re better than someone else, plain and simple. It’s putting your values and experiences on a pedestal. In the tiresome caricature of the coastal elite, that’s saying education is better than no education, that multiculturalism is better than monoculturalism, that a less-armed populace is safer than a more-armed one. But the opposite is also on clear view these days: there is a very real, very persistent strand of elitism in rural America.
This rural elitism looks at education and says “the people on the coasts aren’t real Americans.” It says “if you aren’t using your hands to make something you’re not really working.” It says “I’m the right kind of people and that’s what counts.”
Folks, I’m going to let you in on something: that’s every bit as elitist as a college-educated Starbucks barista complaining about the fact that Trump hasn’t read a book in decades, and if you can’t see it, you’re not even looking.
Every single person who sits there and says “I don’t like people like you because you think you’re better than me” should stop and ask themselves who they think they’re better than. What do you value over what and why? Because thinking going to church every week, going hunting with your friends, and working with your hands makes you somehow “more American” than an atheist, pro-gun control teacher in a big city is every bit as elitist as the reverse — except I’ve never seen a “smug liberal elitist” lay claim to being “more American.”
Now I’m not going to go so far as to defend either kind of elitism. I myself am pretty elitist — I think my way of coming up with values, using reason and logic and more than anything else evidence, is vastly superior to accepting the wisdom of past generations or going with your gut. But what I am going to say is this: don’t be a hypocrite. If you don’t like the “coastal elite,” then maybe take a minute and look in the mirror. But be warned: you might not like what you see.
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Richard Ford Burley is a human, writer, and doctoral candidate at Boston College, as well as an editor at Ledger, the first academic journal devoted to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. In his spare time he writes about science, skepticism, feminism, and futurism here at This Week In Tomorrow.