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Join the elite!


I KNEW immediately what the Rev. J. Danforth Quayle, vice rector, meant when he recently denounced "the cultural elite."

The reason I understood his just-folks brand disparagement is that my own life often has seemed surrounded by cultural elitists. I can see them in the "foreign" section of the video store. I can see them not just browsing among the magazines but actually checking books out of the library. I can see them at baseball games reading the editorial pages of the newspaper.

No doubt it will come as a surprise to many people in Europe and other elitist continents that America has developed to the point of having a cultural elite. Many of them are surprised we even have what can be called -- without laughing -- a culture. But we do, and even a quick look around us proves that with this culture, such as it is, a culturally elite class is inevitable.

All of which raises the question of how you can tell if you yourself might be among Mr. Quayle's targets.

Here are a few guidelines. You are among the cultural elite if:

You carry -- and even occasionally use -- a charge card from French Stuff "R" Us.

When you know you won't be home to see it, you make a special effort not to videotape "Hee-Haw."

Given a choice between wine bottles with a twist-off top or a cork, you actually prefer the cork.

When you see any movie preview at a theater, you invariably turn to the person next to you and say, "Remind me not to see that."

You can't name any Simpson but Bart.

On an off-brand TV station, you occasionally discover a series in syndication that you never saw in its original run.

You can spell "Die Fledermaus" without looking it up.

Your library card is dogeared from use.

There's no doubt in your heart that PBS doesn't stand for this menu item: Peanut Butter & Salmon.

You have on occasion attended a ballet performance in which it never once occurred to you that men in tights look just a little bit silly.

You sometimes talk of having been abroad, even though what you really mean is that, one afternoon while visiting friends in San Diego, you drove down to Tijuana -- and never even got out of the car.

Your car phone has an answering machine.

You may not know much about art, but you know what you don't like.

Your monster truck has a bumper sticker that says, "Save Water. Shower With a Friend."

You've replaced your old tennis shoes with walking shoes, running shoes, gravity boots and cross-training shoes.

By no means is this an exhaustive list of what, in America, can qualify one as a cultural elitist. We've said almost nothing, for instance, about how computer literacy, alternative lifestylism, political independence and wretchedly excessive wealth can, under the right circumstances, turn you into a cultural elitist.

Or how, if you hold an utterly unique job -- even a relatively useless and sometimes annoying one -- you might be a member of the cultural elite.

What sort of job? you ask. Oh, I don't know. Vice president?

Bill Tammeus is a columnist for the Kansas City Star.

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