Two of the more irritating burrs under my saddle at any given time are political people … a whole lot of ’em … and a significant share of the national media. Especially the broadcast folk.

It’s particularly true when members of these two groups use a phrase to describe you and me that I have long found personally insulting. It’s arrogant and pompous on their parts. You hear it a lot around election season and in the halls of Congress.

It’s when they refer to us … you and me … as the “ordinary citizen” or “average American” or the one that rankles most, “ordinary people.” At times they may throw in the words “regular American.” It has the same general effect on me as running fingernails harshly over a blackboard.

It irritates because it’s as if they are trying to describe an amorphous someone who either doesn’t measure up to some perceived citizenship plateau or the speakers/writers were a step up on one exalted level and the rest of us were a step or more down.

I’ve been around a lot of national media and political types in my itinerant professional life and I’m here to tell you both groups are filled with “ordinary” people. In fact, with sizeable egos too often coupled with outsized desires to “be someone,” some I’ve experienced are the most under ordinary people I’ve ever known. Not all. Just some.

On the other hand, I’ve come across a lot of extraordinary folks among teachers and sales clerks, some excellent philosophers among truck drivers and cops, leadership of the highest order in many civil servants in both civility and service or heroes who just wanted to get a dirty job done while going about it in a very uncommon way. “Ordinary folk?” “Average Americans?”

For centuries, some civilizations showed the highest regard for the populous at large by referring to all simply as “citizen.” It signified each person regardless of rank had equal social status as well as full protection of the law.

When I hear a member of Congress, our Legislature or some media hack refer to the rest of us as “average citizens,” “ordinary Oregonians” or “regular folks,” I remind myself these people eat the same kinds of food as the rest of us, sleep in beds much like our own, go to work in the same traffic congestion and most have the same proper hygiene habits we do. Most of ’em.

It would do many of these voices well to remember their careers are owed to the numbers of us extraordinary people who vote for them, watch them mangle the English language each night in our living rooms or mess up otherwise clean national newsprint with tortured thought.

As for politicians especially, it is our extraordinary collective hand that marks the ballot, not the man or woman in office who may have to struggle to raise his or her contribution to the level of mediocrity.

It is no false modesty on our part to think of ourselves as anything but ordinary. Over a couple of hundred years, we’ve built a nation, raised our kids, lifted other countries out of chaos and into stability, gone to the moon and back, built a military second to none and lived up to some pretty high ideals for the most part. Some of that we did with extraordinary leadership; sometimes without it when we had to.

Not a bad record for us “ordinary” people!

Those who court our attention or our vote to further their own careers, solicit our business for their business or seek our support for anything would do well to remember that when referring to us.

You know who I’m talking about. The other ordinary folks.

One Response to “Striking a blow for the “ordinary people:” us”

  1. Mena Says:

    Your cranium must be protecting some very valuable brains.