THE IDOL RICH
My ears perked and I turned towards the grating voice of an older man who was wearing a monogrammed jacket which gave the impression that he was a local official. “You might as well have a bowel movement in the middle of the sidewalk! Smoking is no different!” With that, the adamant anti-cigarette fellow disappeared into a high-end golfing store at the end of the outdoor shopping plaza. The recipient of the scolding, an older man still, bowlegged and wearing tennis garb, walked past me, his weapon of mass disgustion dangling between his fingers. He could see my wide eyes and flabbergasted grin and he said, “What can you expect from a man going through a divorce”?
The great irony of this moment was only apparent a couple of hours later when, at an open-air concert in SnowMass, which is a few miles outside of Aspen, marijuana was smoked freely and wantonly with no imperious scoldings to be heard.
But the golf guy was right. Aspen has a city ordinance which prohibits cigarette smoking in outdoor shopping centers, eateries, or any other place where the persnickety and pampered gather to ogle each others designer Italian western boots and schedule play dates for their dogs. The town is also dotted with “medical marijuana” outlets. And there is no standing ordinance against the public use of cannabis.
Aspen is peopled with the rich. Not just the upper class, or merely wealthy, but the mega-super-duper-crazy rich who have colonized the mountainsides with their hotel-sized middens, which are often one of many homes, spread across the globe. This sounds like a happy haven for Capitalist thought. But not so. If we are to extrapolate a mode of sentiment based upon the cultural and economic demographics of this former mining town, it is easy to deduce that it is largely hostile to the principles of Capitalism and the personal liberties required for average Americans to achieve the dream of economic success.
Aspen is a blue town that went for Obama with 74% of the vote in 2008. It was clear from early in that campaign cycle that Obama was not sympathetic to allowing citizens to hang on to their own cash. Just ask Joe the Plumber. “When you spread the wealth around it’s good for everybody,” was Barak Obama’s flippant answer to Joe Wuzelbacher’s question about increased taxation on small businesses. And it betrays Obama’s leftist, re-distributionist leanings. In spite of the confiscatory tendencies of their chosen leader, the median home price for Aspen dwellers is nearly $800,000. Those who have graduated college make up 61% of the adult population and those with advanced and professional degrees make up 20% of adults living in Aspen. One may assume that this educated and prosperous demographic is savvy about world history and economics, and the many failed socialistic regimes throughout the world that murderously eliminated opposition from within their populations. But if that is so, their voting habits belie that assumption.
So, why the paradox? Is it reasonable that in the United States of America, where there is supposedly no aristocracy, no ruling class, no rulers among men, and justice answers only to a dispassionate constitution, that those who enjoy the sublimity of wealth and comfort would actually embrace the political isms that hamper and dissuade the average American from seeking the same? The ostensible answer is “yes”. The doctrines of socialism, redistribution of wealth, and the spirit and incentive killing power of onerous taxation under oppressive governments have always suppressed the potential of the lower classes and average working people to create a higher standard of living for themselves. This seems obvious, especially as the Obama administration’s affinity for the failed Socialist policies of Europe, and tenacious tyrannical regimes like Cuba and Venezuela, has surfaced like the unbecoming crush a stricken schoolboy has on his witchy and deranged teachers.
As a person of acute religious conviction, I naturally go to the deeper “why” question. Not just “why” there is a paradox; “why” so many wealthy, Liberal elites have a love/hate relationship with the very economic dynamics that give them “sky’s the limit” opportunity, but “why” they have disconnected from the basic values of goodness, self-improvement, self-reliance, and self-determination that are the bedrock ethics of the American middle class? Let’s look at some more statistics from Aspen. The percentage of adults who have never married in Aspen is nearly 47%. Those currently divorced is nearly 20%. The average size household is 1.9 while the rest of Colorado is at around 2.5 people per household. 7% of the adult population are in a cohabitation arrangement, without the benefit of marriage. Despite the claims of inclusion and tolerance on the part of the Liberal elite, Aspen has percentages of black and Hispanic Americans which are significantly lower than the rest of the state. But perhaps the most telling statistic of all is this; the percentage of the adult residents of Aspen, Colorado who align themselves with a religion is only 18%. This is dramatically lower than the 55% of self-identified religious people who populate the rest of the country.
Is the Left without religion? No, and yes. To keep the discussion focused, we can look at contemporary Liberals, the progressive core of the Democrat party and those who are off the chart leftist and identify themselves openly as Socialists and Communists. Often when someone, who is a part of a left-lurching political movement, expounds their political positions they look like religious zealots. They preach the doctrines of their favorite idols; the environment, abortion, population control, social justice, gay rights, animal rights, among other new-age golden calves, with evangelical fervor. They admonish and berate those who disagree with their points of view (think golf man and cigarette tennis man). They cajole and accuse and place labels of “moral” on those who support their policies and “immoral” on those who dissent. Think of the new morality of “green” policies, animal rights, vegetarian issues, obesity, and socialized health care. Think of the contorted “morality” that accuses some religious people of lacking compassion because they oppose the profligate destruction of human life in the womb. The list is exhaustive and it illustrates the pseudo-religious re-framing of policy arguments the Left has used to make liberal policies into “moral” arguments, and the doctrines of men into “indisputable scripture” (think of the global warming debacle and Al Gore’s pronouncement that “The debate is over!”).
I have to qualify my use of the term “liberal”, because most Conservatives are far more liberal than those on the left when it comes to the classic definition of “liberal generosity”. A 2008 study by Arthur Brooks contained these findings: Religious people are 57% more likely to help a homeless person than those without religion. Conservative households give 30% more in charitable contributions than Liberal households. Conservatives give blood twice as often. And red state denizens are 51% more likely to volunteer than those in blue states. But I digress.
The Liberal elites, the “Idol Rich”, who occupy leftist enclaves such as Aspen and Boulder and Berkley and…you get the picture, have counterfeited true religion and replaced it with social and political doctrines which are the opposite, in source and purpose, of true, God-centered religion. The principle of charity has become nationalized, and thus, compulsory. Social Justice, which is a discredited, but highly popular, euphemism for the Marxist re-distribution of wealth, has replaced self-reliance and moral agency, with the state at the helm of control and power. Collective Salvation, which is a doctrine of temporal salvation through the redistribution of wealth and the “leveling” of the classes, has replaced personal redemption, which is possible only through The Lord Jesus Christ.
So, in returning to the question of “why” are these things so; “why” the seeming paradox among a high percentage of the super-wealthy who vote for politicians who destroy wealth and the incentives to obtain it; “why” are Liberal elites, who purport compassion and love for the “little guy”, so removed from the daily struggles of average, freedom-loving Americans, and “why” do they reject God but embrace a system of doctrines and beliefs which no man may oppose without being skewered as “immoral” or “heretical?” We may find the answer to the “why” questions in their very contradictions. Like the anti-tobacco cigarette bias of a town that countenances the libertine use of weed, the “new morality” of the elite Left is a counterfeit arrangement of hip and hedonistic constructs designed to fill the void that was created when they abandoned the true God and His authentic moral principles.
I am a people watcher by nature. I am fascinated by human behavior and the social, cultural and internal pressures that animate people. I am also intrigued by the way truth and unchangeable principles cannot be fully eliminated by those who find them irritating or inconvenient, but rather how a counterfeit must be built and squished into the empty spaces that were once filled with the intractable precepts of true faith. Cohabitation, single-hood, and childlessness have replaced marriage and family. The state and politics have replaced scripture and religion as the moral authority. Forced giving through taxation by a bloated and insatiable “nanny” state has replaced individual compassion and charity. The dog culture and doggie play dates have replaced children and the commitment that comes with raising the next generation. And cigarettes have replaced pot as the dreaded and disgusting substance that brands one as reprobate, irresponsible, and yes, immoral. These are just a few of the counterfeit gods that ensconce the Baalim of the Idol Rich.