Opinion: Americans are angry at the person in your mirror
Correction: Due to an editing error, a previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the 2016 presidential election was on the first Tuesday of November. The election was actually on the second Tuesday of November. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for this error.
If the second Tuesday of Nov. 2016 was in fact a change election, an angry demand for help by a plurality and repudiation of the standing way of doing political business in so much of the country, one needs to ask specifically why and at whom this anger is directed.
The scapegoat of elites and elitism, and its punishment by the electorate, reads as good a partial explanation as any, and better than most.
But who exactly are these elites?
The externalization of blame onto distant parties eternally serves as one of the great human psychological defense mechanisms. Yet the most callous moral blindness often lurks inside us. When scraping together change for the Wendy’s value menu or paying for parking on Franklin Street, UNC students may not feel it. When still making student loan payments years into tenure, UNC professors may not feel it. Labor under no illusion.
UNC is a part of the elite the nation finds wanting.
Exclusion and elitism constitute universities, particularly this one. No diversity brochure plastered with easy smiles and bucolic tranquility can erase the practice of allowing in only those with the right grades, test scores, essays and ability to somehow pay.
UNC holds a ranking of 30 currently in US News & World Report, 47 in Forbes. Consider that those rankings come in on top of over 2,400 four-year institutions in the United States. Then consider that less than a third of Americans hold a Bachelor’s degree.
The quantitative implications of being a student or faculty at UNC, and how that places us as part of the elite, should be easy to grasp.
Whatever individual victim status we may cloak ourselves in to say “not me,” does anyone really want to go to Wal-Mart and explain their woeful situation as a Tar Heel to someone ahead of them in line buying generic bread with an EBT card?
We may feel we earned our places here.
In the bubble that is a community of academic strivers, that narrative seduces us easily. It is only part of the truth. The excluded majority grant the places and tolerate the luxury of our activity here. If our time and effort here do not flow into a rising tide lifting all boats, but instead a luxury spa where the desperate look through its gate to never take the waters, we all risk drowning.
We must start publically admitting the anger at elites, which we are or aspire to be, is justified.
Elites of both parties including everyone that holds a bachelor’s degree aggregately and inexcusably failed those that do not hold them for arguably over five decades up to now.
In that failure, we break the tacit social contract we have with those who do not attend college.
We are to give back in commensuration to what we are given, not take our winnings and run to urban coasts and gated communities, never to look back. This past election is just a taste of how bad it can go for elites that do not do right by the majority of their people.
Elites lead and dominate their peoples, until they don’t.
Can we learn from history?
Isn’t that, after all, part of why we are here?