If you’re an American who’s fond of fried chicken—or worse yet, red meat—it can be hard to escape a sense of being continually tut-tutted at these days. Admit that you like plain-old-ordinary beer (not just the artsy microbrew kind), and some people will react as if you told them you had a taste for warm goat’s blood.
How about acknowledging that you enjoy regular commercial television? Stock car racing? Fishing? Hunting? In some circles, you’re doing well if people manage to suppress a shudder.
A lot of Americans these days get a sense of being looked down on by certain of their countrymen. The term “elitism” has been tossed around many times—and the denials of it tend not to be found convincing by people who feel they’re on the receiving end. The result is that we often find ourselves locked in an endless round of playground-style argumentation about elitism. (“Are too!” “Am not!” )
We might get further if we could just admit the amount of disapproval and looking down that occurs among Americans today—and then go on to see where it comes from.
For one thing, it has overtones of payback. The segments of American society most often accused of being elitist are no strangers to feeling put down themselves. And the kinds of people at whose hands they feel they’ve suffered it are largely the same groups they’re inflicting it on today.