Pull out a pad of paper and on the left hand side write down the names of all the nationally prominent individuals you trust and admire.
That didn't take long, did it?
Now on the right hand side write the names of all the individuals you personally know, or closely know about, and whom you trust and admire.
You can stop when you get the point. In all likelihood you have clearly identified both the problem and the solution.
We live in a bifurcated society in which an inordinate number of people that the media suggest we should admire are crooks, narcissists or incompetent - among other things, yet in our more personal lives we often have a wealth of individuals we enjoy, respect and work well with.
I think of this as the 1984 or East German split. In both the Orwell novel and the real communist nation, the elite (or inner/outer party) comprised less than fifteen percent of the population. And bad as this elite was, it was still possible for ordinary people to live, in many ways, ordinary decent lives. The same was true in the Middle Ages provided you weren't a feudal lord, a bishop or in their coterie.
I live in a small town in Maine and am repeatedly struck by how the values and behavior here differ from those I write about every day. It is almost as though I live and write in two different lands.
Yet if you listen to the liberal grad school elite you would never know this. All wisdom, in its mind, rises to the top and so the solutions are to be found among those with the most power, i.e. in Washington, rather than dispersed throughout our culture.
This wasn't always true of liberals. For example, in the 1960s bringing power down to the local level had wide support and even William Safire wrote of devolution as a leftist idea.
Perhaps the most dramatic example of the shift has been the federal intrusion into two centuries of a locally-controlled public schools that, in many ways, had helped give America greatness.
Meanwhile the liberal control freaks never notice the importance of local power in helping to create women's and gay rights, environmental laws, common sense in where we grow and buy food, and the current retreat from the drug war madness.
The split between those on the left who favor rigid federalism and those who favor subsidiarity (government at the lowest practical level) has been going on for sometime. But with the overwhelming collapse of our elite in politics, academia, business, media and the arts, the argument is no longer just an intellectual one but one of survival.
In the tiny yet powerful enclaves of America's inner and out party there are few solutions, little wisdom and a stunning lack of integrity.
The answers lie on the right hand side of your pad of paper. Not on MSNBC or in the New York Times but over coffee or at a meeting.
You and your friends are all we really have left.