c. David Grim (taken 10/10/10)
On the way to work I heard some folks talking about the election. The interviewer was asking them how they felt about the current direction of government. One guy commented that he thought that Washington was out-of-step with the mainstream. That made me consider the definition of the word. What is the actual "mainstream" of the United States of America? It's like trying to define the word "normal". Haven't we all already agreed that it is impossible? Sure, there exists some statistical aggregate of the "average". But for every such formulation you have to substantially limit your variables to attain any clear impression.
You might be "normal" when it comes to the house you reside in, or the number of children you have, or the amount of fat you eat every day... but I guarantee you I could find just as many abnormalities that apply to you as well. So how can anyone presume to really represent the "mainstream", or have any idea what "it" believes? A more appropriate question to ask is just how broad a sampling of the population any one individual can relate to. Because whoever has the ability to expand his/her empathy to the widest spectrum has the best ability to ascertain what the "mainstream" is.
I've been thinking a lot about this in different ways over the years. I live in an urban area- which means I'm surrounded by a density of people with a large and diverse cross-section of social classes, attitudes, interests, and lifestyles. And to add to that, I work in the exurbs where I encounter an entirely different group of people with an entirely disparate set of perspectives. I spend an almost equal amount of my waking hours in these two settings. Additionally, on my way to work I alternate listening to conservative talk radio and NPR. I could therefore make the case that I am exposed to multiple sections of the population regularly, and thus have some ability to compare and contrast.
Still I can't tell you what the "mainstream" is, and I expect that you can't either. And I'm damn sure that the person who claims to represent that fictional construct is talking out of his ass in the service of persuasion. But I'm not certain whether or not he knows that he is making this crap up. The assertion that he is truly representative of "the middle" is delivered in such a sanctimonious way that I suspect he hasn't really given too much consideration to the accuracy of his claims. No... instead he has the unthinking audacity to speak for "America" when he is merely parroting a set of ideas and opinions that have been force fed him by whatever media outlet he follows.
Perhaps I'm overreacting to what amounts to a very common subconscious process. Still I've had about as much as I can stand from these jerk-offs who insist that they embody the "just-folks-iness" that everyone who disagrees with them so clearly lacks. If we haven't learned the very real dangers of this kind of populist crap by now (especially in the wake of the violence of the 20th century), then we will never see our situation clearly enough to aspire to any serviceable consensus. We might as well draw the new borders right now. What's the point of continuing the false pretense of a "United" States when so many are so clearly addicted to the us vs. them mentality?