…Sept. 11 did not result in a much-feared (by intellectuals) wave of popular Islamophobia or xenophobia…
I have 2 major issues with William Kristol’s comment. The first one is that it’s wrong. The second is that it scares me. A lot.
Why it’s wrong:
In fact, Kristol is correct in that 9.11 did not result in a wave of popular Islamophobia. Instead, it resulted in a typhoon that nestled under the surface in the American public and has recently poked its malignant head out to say hello. Over the past seven years, resentment toward the American-Muslim community has reached tremendous levels: the term “Arab” is now seen as a four-letter swear word. The overt racist has been pushed aside for the introverted racist. There will be no burning crescents, but an increase in the diffused language of The Other or Them. Third-person reference has always been to diminish the worth of a minority group; and the U.S. has a long and disturbing track record of pushing these thoughts forward. Throughout this campaign Barack Obama has had the kitchen sink thrown at him, including the misconception that he is Muslim. And as Colin Powell said on MTP, so what? It shouldn’t matter if he is a Muslim. He’s an American and over 35. He has every right to run for the presidency. But since language influences thought, which influences behavior (Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis) we can see that actually there has been an uptick of Islamaphobia. Only it’s disguised in language.
Why it’s scary:
The scariest statement that Kristol (and through association, the GOP) alludes to is that of anti-intellectualism. I have yet to figure out what elite means to her and the McCain campaign. I have a Master’s Degree and taught at the University level. Does that make me elite? But wait, I’m unemployed and live in a shitty apartment. Doesn’t sound too elitist to me. I want to be an elitist. I really do. More importantly, I want the leaders of my country to be elitist. I want them to be better than me, smarter than me, able to handle the pressures of leading better than me.
I don’t understand how a professional politician cannot consider themselves elite. Especially a Governor (where there are only 50 in a land of 300+ million), a Senator (100:300+ million) or the person running for the best temp job ever. The President of the United States of America by definition is an elitist. THERE IS ONLY ONE AT A TIME! (unless you believe in some Cheney conspiracy).
This anti-intellectual phenomenon must subside if America is to survive. We need to create an economy that works for us, now in 2008. Agriculture and information technology have risen and fallen, now is the time to move to a green economy. An intellectualist philosophy will spark creativity in clean energy in the same way an aspirationalist philosophy put a man on the moon. We need to have these dreams and turn these dreams into goals. The so-called elite are the ones to push this forward. This is why anti-intellectualism is so scary. It’s not because it makes the U.S look dumb (which it does) but it stagnates our productivity. We need to have smart people, elite people, drive these policies. Those who understand know. And knowing is half the battle.
Maybe elite and intellectual need to be dissected one at a time. The elite thing I kind of understand: in my mind we as America are uncomfortable in our position as Rulers of the Universe, and maybe this is our way to resist it. The intellectual thing is more dangerous. I’ve seen Idiocracy.
Being intellectual can be defined as being elite, as this is the connection conservatives make. 25% of the American public has a college degree. Of that 25%, 3% has a graduate degree of some kind. That’s elite.The problem comes to a head when those who are decrying elitism are part of the elite themselves but don’t acknowledge that. It’s part of a long tradition of using language to influence behavior and it’s sickening.