Thursday, October 28, 2010

So . . . who's out of touch?

The New York Times's resident conservative columnist David Brooks is usually thoughtful, independent-minded, and original. But every once in a while the transmitter Karl Rove implanted in his brain goes off and he delivers the latest pre-recorded message from GOP Central. This time it was another rendition of the Republicans' generic pseudo-anti-"elitism" shtick I wrote about in a recent post. Brooks's take was to assert that when Democrats point out that the GOP has nominated some first-class flakes this year (Christine O'Donnell, Carl Paladino) or that Republicans have engaged in despicable demagoguery over health care ("death panels," "government take-over"), the Democrats are actually just indulging their psychological need to "feel superior."

So remember: if you nominate flakes or engage in demagoguery, it says more about your opponents than yourself.

Meanwhile, one of the "out of touch" members of the highly educated, East Coast dwelling, intermarying "New Elite" that right-wing think-tanker Charles Murray warned us about in his Washington Post piece has written to the paper one of the gentlest kick-em-in-the nuts replies I have had the pleasure to see in print in ages:

I am one of the brides mentioned in Charles Murray's commentary — the "consultant to the aerospace industry (Stanford undergrad, Harvard MPP)" who married "a director of marketing at a biotech company (Stanford undergrad, Harvard MBA)." But Mr. Murray used a faulty example to characterize his New Elite. 

He failed to recognize the host of ways the populations attending "elite" educational institutions have changed as society has shifted. I grew up as a Muslim in American suburbs, with immigrant parents who worked their way up the corporate ladder and speak of biases they faced because of skin color or accent. I never attended a private American school while growing up, but I did live in Pakistan for two years during high school. In American public schools, I was awarded some money by the Rotary Club and even got elected Key Club secretary. I didn't watch TV. I took no luxurious domestic vacations with my parents. 

I left Harvard to work with Bangladeshi women whose faces have been burned with acid. Having lived and worked with those less fortunate than I and having experienced South Asia, I hardly feel that I am out of touch with humanity. 

I look forward not to the genes that my children will "double" but to the richness of vicarious experiences that they may get when I tell them about my experiences abroad or their grandparents' first days in America. The supposed New Elite isn't a monolith, and it may even be a force for change. 

Samira Khan, Boston