Saturday, August 27, 2011

For "real"

I don’t want “real” people in office. There, I said it. 

What is so great about being “real”? It’s a meaningless designation. After all, people who marvel at Sarah Palin’s realness can’t argue that Barack Obama is a robot made in Indonesia (maybe that’s a bad example). Literally, everyone in public office is a real person. 

“Oh, Ian,” you say, “You take everything so literally. ‘Real’ means that the person understands the needs and troubles of regular Americans!” Yeah, I know. But you’d be hard-pressed to guess that based on who gets held up as real. More likely than not, “real” people are defined as incurious, ultraconservative fanatics, who are “above” all this highfalutin’ “elitism” and intend to apply “common sense values” to “return this country” to something or other.

I’ve been told to my face that I’m not a “real” American. I guess being born here, living here my whole life, paying taxes and exercising my freedoms of speech and press aren’t enough to be “real” if my education and distrust of willful ignorance cancels that out. Like many people with higher educations, I’ve been told by self-proclaimed “real” people that I’ve been tainted with liberal ideas that will forever keep me out of touch with what this country really needs. (I’d ask the actual elite what they think, but they won’t return my calls.) 

George W. Bush was the absolute pinnacle of this “real person” lunacy. Despite being the Yale-educated, multimillionaire, dry-drunk son of a former president, Bush was the aw-shucks Washington outsider with whom voters wanted to have a beer. Palin also struck the fancy of many as someone who’d have you over for moose chili as long as you call before you head out. It’s absurd on its face and also a stupid reason to vote for someone. 

Personally, I want the best person in office for the job. It’s funny how, these days, we insist that our politicians have no qualifications for what they’re doing. We expect our doctors, astronauts, military and law enforcement to be the best and brightest in their respective fields, and no one boots them out after four years because they become too entrenched or influential. And we certainly don’t pine for cops or generals who insist the police force or the military is the problem. But we’re supposed to abhor any “career politician” and replace them with someone “real,” because it’s an improvement to elect someone who, to paraphrase Matt Taibbi, reminds us of the selfish jerk we see in the mirror each morning. 

"Real" people, it seems, aren’t subject to the same temptations of power, influence and money that have allegedly sucked the humanity out of our current officeholders. The truth is, people are people. Some are humble, some are greedy and many are in between. It might seem like your Ted Kennedy types are too much a part of the system, but what happens when T. Party Q. Real gets his first taste of influence? That’s when I’d hope that person has some leadership ability. But based on their stated contempt for the system and so-called elitism, I wonder. 

It’s one thing to want new, fresh blood; it’s another entirely to demand that the person not only be an outsider, but to be on par with the lowest common denominator. Call me elitist, but I definitely don’t subscribe to the notion that literally anybody could run the government better. If my local gadfly runs for office, that’s cool, but they’d better have some sort of inherent leadership qualities. Has it become elitist to want smart, team-playing leaders, regardless of political stripe? I hope not, because not only am I not “real,” I’m also a lousy elitist.

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