Friday, March 4, 2011

The Real Real America

The other day, presidential maybe hopeful Mike Huckabee said:

"He [Obama] has a different worldview and I think it is, in part, molded out of a very different experience. Most of us grew up going to Boy Scout meetings."
As a democracy-loving American, I believe that the people who represent us in government should know who we are. All of us. And not think that "all of us" share the experiences and history of just the 13 percent of us who grew up going to Boy Scout meetings. (See below.)

I believe our leaders, our representatives, have to understand that their own experiences alone do not represent the "real America" and that they have a civic duty, a responsibility, to consciously expand their experience and their understanding of who we all are as a nation if they want to represent the 'real America.'

And I am very concerned that Huckabee believes, that his "worldview" is "most of us grew up going to Boy Scout meetings."

Also, a few days ago I heard a politician being interviewed on NPR say he wants a return to "the real America." I arrived at my destination just as he said that, I didn't hear his party affiliation or his idea of what the "real America" is or was. (That particular story wasn't one of the fabled NPR driveway moments.)

Some Background
When I was growing up in the 1950s, I was taught that "the real America" was a "melting pot." A rather inartful metaphor, but I understood it to mean that America is made up of a wide variety of different people with different backgrounds.

(Point of fact: the immediate "real America" of my tender youth was predominantly white middle class and our fathers had pretty much all fought in WWII and worked as executives in "the city." And I was a Boy Scout and played Little League baseball, badly, in right field.)

But I had some sort of vague awareness that there was plenty of America which wasn't white and middle class and many folks didn't think "Father Knows Best" was a documentary.

I was in my teens and twenties that my"real America" expanded to include experience with a huge range of non-white non-middle class folks.

What an eye-opener, even for someone with a pretty good imagination and wide taste in reading material.


Some Facts About The Real "Real America"
Mike Huckabee said: "And I have said many times, publicly, that I do think he [Obama] has a different worldview and I think it is, in part, molded out of a very different experience. Most of us grew up going to Boy Scout meetings."

Being a natural born question-asker, I wondered: "Really?"

So I did some digging into the number of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts in the US, and the population of the age groups included in those two organizations.

The age breakdowns for scouting activity don't line up precisely with the census age breakdown, but with some rough and ready extrapolation, I came up with these figures (to match the age range for the Boy Scouts organization):

Boys and girls ages 6-18: 53,093,000
Girls and boys in scouting: 6,926,000

Now, let's assume that the percentage hasn't significantly changed over the years.

Roughly, just 13% of boys and girls are growing up "going to Boy Scout [and Girl Scout] meetings. (If you want to read Huckabee's statement using the principles of strict construction, only 8% of us grow up going to Boy Scout meetings.


Note to Mr Huckabee: "No, not only didn't President Obama not grow up in Kenya, but most of us didn't grow up going to Boy Scout meetings."

My Experience and Analysis
Frankly, I think this obscure factual inaccuracy is more telling, perhaps, than your knowledge failure about President Obama.


In my experience, each of us tends to assume that everyone has had the same experiences and shares the same understandings and values. (Honest people tends to assume everyone else is honest, liars tend to assume everyone else is a liar.)

Some of my biggest mistakes in life have resulted from acting from that sort of misunderstanding.

In my opinion, until you and your fellow conservatives really meet the "real America," your projections of your life experiences will continue to not be representative of the American people as a whole.

It's a wonderful nation out here, in the real "real America."

I hope you'll join us. Not just in the Boy Scout meetings, not just in the Baptist churches, but in:

  • the coffee shops,
  • in the employee break rooms of the big box stores,
  • behind the fast food counters,
  • in the senior centers and "rest homes,"
  • in the unemployment lines (right now there are about 14.5 million Americans in that group, compared to about 7 million Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts),
  • on the manufacturing product lines,
  • in the classrooms of the cities as well as the small towns (about 79% of us live in urban areas),
  • in the Mosques and synagogues and churches of the many different Christian denominations,
And in the many other types of places "real Americans" congregate.

Come get to know us and then, maybe, you'll be qualified to represent us.

= = = =
Sources:
For population, I used the 2009 figures at http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2011/tables/11s0007.pdf

For the boy scouts and girl scouts, I used the numbers given on their wikipedia pages.




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