Nothing Wrong With Being Elite

Bob Jones
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Wednesday - November 19, 2008
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The author photographed these two men in Idaho

Some people argue that race was the background issue in this year’s presidential election. I say it was so far in the background as to be invisible except in some white, rural pockets in southeastern Ohio, southwestern Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, and Georgia.

The rest of America - yes, even the mainstream South - has worked through most of its racial hangups.

And it wasn’t that “socialist” charge. What’s more socialist than bailing out banks or Alaska doling out its oil income in four figures to each member of every family?

No, the real background issue was the word “elite.” Old days - the Boston moneyed, descendants of made-rich missionaries in Hawaii. That’s changed. Elites are those with superior educations, societal connections, houses in prime residential areas, high incomes. They speak standard English, like wine, show up at the best parties and plays, and send their kids to private schools at $15,000 a year.

In very-small-town America there is an inferiority complex of sorts, a sense that the elites look down on the truck drivers, laborers and bartenders who may or may not have finished high school, and sometimes speak funny. We foist on them movies with titles such as Synechdoche New York which they can’t pronounce for the ticket seller.


Many Waianae residents think we East Honoluluans look down on them as not our societal equals. How often does an East Honoluluan drive out to Waianae and Nanakuli to see what’s happening or chat with residents there? We’re more likely to employ them. We drive by their Kawamoto rent-free houses in Kahala to see how many cars they have up on cinder blocks. We laugh. Or complain to the Japanese consulate.

I’m remembering my camping trip last year through the Ozarks and stopping to take a photo of some dilapidated houses. A resident saw me and shouted “Hey, whatcha doin’, taking pictures of us hillbillies?” Yeah, I guess that’s what I was doing, photographing the bearded men in bib overalls.

Bill Clinton wasn’t perceived as elite because he talked Arkansas. Jimmy Carter talked Georgia. Barack Obama is elite. Wealthy lawyer, standard English, long gone from Hawaii. John McCain is less than elite despite his wife’s money because he was a poor student, crashed a couple of planes by stupid flying, did POW time and put the no-great-smarts Sarah Palin on his team.

In the end, 65 million voted for the elite.


three star

Special interests corrupt or damage democracy? I say: Horse puckey! We’re all special interests, pro and anti rail, pro and anti Con Con. Democrat and Republican.

Environmentalists voted in Jessica Wooley over Colleen Meyer by working harder. Voters picked the energetic youngster Chris Lee over Campbell Estate millionaire Quentin Kawananakoa because the latter didn’t grab ‘em. Parents wanted new-blood Carol Mon Lee on the school board rather than religious conservative Denise Matsumoto. Gordon Trimble likely lost to Brickwood Galuteria because of lousy campaigning, not union opposition.

If you can’t get people behind your candidacy, know why? Because you don’t represent their special interests.


three star

No surprise to me that Carl-Wilhelm Vogel resigned as director of the UH Cancer Research Center. He was an unhappy man since he discovered that his center would play second fiddle to the UH Medical School. He argued that his project would be a rainmaker while the med school would eat up money with operating costs, and that it made no sense for the med school not to be on campus and connected with a hospital.

The new Cancer Research Center in Kakaako keeps getting put on the back burner. The plan is to do it in two phases, but phase one won’t have a clinic so won’t be bringing in any patient revenue. Vogel always saw us as the place many Asian/Mainland cancer patients would come for advanced treatment.

Like so many things at the UH, one step forward and three steps back.

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