e·lit·ism or é·lit·ism
1. The belief that certain persons or members of certain classes or groups deserve favored treatment by virtue of their perceived superiority, as in intellect, social status, or financial resources.
a. The sense of entitlement enjoyed by such a group or class.
b. Control, rule, or domination by such a group or class.
I have had a year dealing with some people in my town who call me a leftist elitist. I hear it has been said about me that I never met a tax I didn’t like. They think I am rich, over-educated, and very, very liberal. Well, I am not rich. I am lower middle class in income, and probably upper middle class in upbringing. My father was a small-town surgeon, in the days when an auto accident or appendicitis would lead to calls in the middle of the night for him to go to the hospital. They didn’t have emergency specialists then, and he was the only surgeon in town for quite some years. He was educated at Yale, as were his father and brothers, and went to Harvard Medical School. Then he served on a destroyer in the Pacific in WWII, and finally settled in my grandfather’s apple orchard to take up his practice.
I have a BA from a small liberal arts school which I finished at the age of 37. I consider myself well-educated because I am very, very curious and read a lot about all sorts of things. I can’t quite see the “over-educated.” I suspect it is more that they dislike people who speak clearly, logically and thoughtfully about issues, rather than spewing sound bites and acting as if repetition and yelling will make it so.
But they are absolutely correct in saying that I am a liberal Democrat, especially on social issues. The canard about my love for raising taxes I don’t understand. I served on my board of selectmen with a Republican, and he and I maybe disagreed twice in three years on the budget. If I am a tax-and-spender, so is he! We both agreed that we needed to budget responsibly, so that the town got the services it needed and we remained within the law. We both were concerned to plan for the future.
Given the source of the slur, it was not too hard to let that one go. But this year I got involved in a discussion on a listserve with a group of people who call themselves socially progressive and fiscally responsible. We were discussing SB2, and I expressed my delight at one point when my town turned it down for both town and school. Next thing I knew I was an elitist again! And that really got to me.
I like town meetings. I don’t want to lose this form of government in my town. One thing I really love about it is going to the meeting, feeling I have my mind made up on an article in the warrant, and then changing my mind on listening to my fellow citizens. Now, I suppose one could do the same in the deliberative session and vote to amend something, but then the whole thing might be voted down on the ballot some weeks later, by people who weren’t even there to discuss it, rather than us deciding right after everyone has had their say.
Some people argue that town meetings are packed with supporters of particular issues. Well, deliberative sessions can be packed as well, and it is even easier to get your group out to vote on the ballot, and takes a lot less time! Others are intimidated by people who are loud, or angry, and prefer the privacy and ease of the voting booth. A good moderator can make the town meeting a much nicer experience. Moderators are elected, so find someone good and wage a campaign to get her elected.
Most of all, I dislike knowing that many of the people who turn up for a ballot vote will have no idea of what they are voting on. It is so easy to vote no on a budget when you haven’t sat through the budget committee meetings and other informational events and heard why the money is in there. At least at town meeting you can ask questions and find out why the departments are asking for the funds.
And I guess this makes me an elitist. Who knew?