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The "Cultural Elite" and the Rest of Us


Stephanie Salter
The San Francisco Examiner
June 14, 1992

Hey, I asked my lesbian friends Lucy and Ricki, how does it feel to be a member of the cultural elite?

"What are you talking about?" said Lucy, who was trying to get their son Little Ricki ready for a neighborhood kid's birthday party.

The vice president, I said. Don't you read the papers? He's found and identified "a great cultural divide" in the U.S. He calls the two groups, "The Cultural Elite" and "The Rest of Us."

According to Dan Quayle, I said, you homosexual parents are a mainstay of the cultural elite, especially you lesbians because you think fathers are dispensable.

"Since when?" Lucy said, then shouted, "Little Ricki, the dog is NOT going to Jason's party and he's NOT wearing Big Ricki's blue silk dress. Get it off him NOW!"

She sighed. "What was that you said about Dan Quayle? No, I don't read the papers anymore. I don't have time. Ricki and I are trying to raise a 4-year-old, hold onto our jobs so we can pay our mortgage and taxes, and still keep our relationship loving and strong. Did you know we're about to celebrate our 10th anniversary?"

I congratulated them and said it was ironic that they had been together as long as most couples I knew -- straight or gay -- and yet they respect neither tradition nor standards.

"Who told you that?" said Lucy.

The vice president, I said. Those were his very words to the annual convention of Southern Baptists. He said you cultural elites -- his plural, not mine -- "respect neither tradition nor standards. They believe that moral truths are relative and all life styles are equal."

Lucy sighed again.

"Yeah, like my life style and Marilyn Quayle's are equal," she said. "Who else is a cultural elite besides lesbian and gay parents?"

Well, let's see, I said. Sophisticated folks are
again, I'm quoting the vice president verbatim -- and people in Hollywood who may have a lot of money and influence but don't have the power of ideas, convictions and beliefs.

People who hand out condoms in the schools or distribute sexual propaganda to our third and fourth graders. Also people who sit in faculty lounges across America.

"What makes that last bunch cultural elites?" asked Lucy.

Mocking, I said. They sit there and mock The Rest of Us.

"They do? Mock us
I mean them? Why?" asked Lucy.

For talking about right and wrong, I said.

"You mean like the way Ricki and I did when we got into an argument at the Mertx's barbecue last Saturday because Fred said it was a waste of time to vote anymore and we said it was still the duty of a conscientious citizen?"

Yeah, I said. And like the time you gave that woman from Little Ricki's day-care center hell for blaming the recession on welfare mothers instead of on a decade of unbridled corporate greed.

"Well?" said Lucy.

But the vice president says you cultural elites sneer at talk of right and wrong, that you're moral cynics. He told the Baptists: "The elite's culture is a guilt-free culture. It avoids responsibility and flees consequences."

"Don't I wish," said Lucy, then, "Let me get this straight. If you aren't specifically providing condoms or sex education, writing a TV show or newspaper story or teaching college, you are a cultural elite if you are sophisticated and morally cynical.

"Instead of ideas, convictions and beliefs you have a lot of money and influence. The one beliefe you do have is that moral truths are relative, which helps you avoid responsibility, flee consequences and live guilt-free."

"Right," I said.

"Does that sound like me or Ricki?" asked Lucy. "Does it sound like anybody you know? The people in your neighborhood? The women who run that free clothes closet for mothers and kids? The social action group in your church? The folks at the AIDS hospice? Any parent, single or married? You co-workers?"

No, I said. It didn't sound like anybody I know, love or admire.

"So, who does it sound like?" asked Lucy.

I thought a moment.

It sounds a lot like the kind of people who would take an Eastern-born-and-raised Yale grad who passes himself off as a common-as-mud Texan and run him for president, I said. The kind of people who would then take a good-looking but shallow guy from a weathy, white Midwestern family -- a guy who made his reputation in Congress as an ultra-hawk yet spent the Vietnam War in the Indiana National Guard -- and run him for vice president.

"The kind of people," asked Lucy, "who would realize that these two guys might not get re-elected and would send the shallow one out to decry "the great cultural divide" with a speech that was designed to do nothing but feed fear, warp understanding and divide a nation into fictional camps like Cultural Elites and The Rest of Us?"

Yeah, I said. And to do it absolutely guilt-free.

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