The political climate in 2010 America makes for tough friendships. Actually, the problem rests with widespread, instantaneous information that is neither accurate nor useful. We at thefiresidepost.com write opinion. We are right up front about our process. We do not uncover secret plots by Muslims breeding like rabbits and take over the world by shear force of numbers. We do not invent small towns in the southwest that are overrun by illegal immigrants posing as legitimate street gangs. We don’t invent fake Kenyan birth certificates for the President. The problems become magnified when people receive this sort of nonsense in mass emails – and choose to believe without question. And we are not just talking about wacko illiterates. We are talking about some folks who are otherwise good thinkers. And we are troubled.
My friend, who most us call Farmer John, is a sophisticated economist. He never went to college. He probably never heard of Keynesian Economics. If asked he would imagine this must be economics in President Obama’s father’s home country. But Farmer John understands capitalism. He has used the capitalist economic model to feed his family and secure his future. Farmer John owns about a thousand acres. He calls himself ‘…just an old truck farmer.’
The other day I asked Farmer John how he became a farmer. He told me his father owned about a hundred acres back in the 1950’s. John said he bought ten cows in 1956. He fattened them up and sold for a profit. Then he bought more. By 1986 he had a thousand acres of land and five thousand cows. He decided to get out of the cattle business and became a crop farmer. Today, fifty-four years after his first investment, Farmer John has his business paid for. He understands capitalism – there is no question about that. Farmer John has children, and John thinks that when he dies his children should inherit his wealth. I think John has a legitimate point – which is why estate taxes (death taxes) are so troubling to many of us.
John works hard and has legitimate conflict with State and Federal intrusion into his business. What he sees as simple business requires a paid Certified Public Accountant to explain to the various Federal, State, and local governments competing for John’s money. Taxes will always be needed and they will always make someone unhappy. And many times taxes punish one person more than another in different circumstances. There are very few ‘fair’ taxes.
John is very practical about local taxes. He understands the need for police and fire protection. He understands the need for sewer systems and street lights and roads and bridges. John even did two terms on a local school board – he is an advocate of good education. He is happy to pay when he sees value for his money.
And Farmer John likes the Tea Party. He questions President Obama’s citizenship. He questions the use of our tax dollars to provide a free life for illegal immigrants. He questions the need to offer the American Judicial System to foreign terrorists. He challenges the dangers of catering to Islam. He challenges all government entitlement programs. He is convinced the Democrats are a shadow organization masking a communist takeover of our country. John occasionally erupts in a rant about some email he received reporting on illegal immigrants taking over our country or Muslim breeding practices. (John understands animal breeding).
And with all of this – I respect Farmer John.
John is not sophisticated in the ways of Karl Rove. John kept his nose to the grindstone and built a family business by shear hard work, determination, conservative financial practice, and responsible behavior. John had no time for the subtleties of political operatives. I respect Farmer John – but I detest those who would take advantage of John’s innocence in matters of politics.
I live in northwest Missouri. This is a land of hard working people who will give you the proverbial shirt-off-their-back if they think you need it. These folks will drive fifty miles out of their way to lend you a hand. Need something welded – bring it over. Hungry? Come on in. These folks would never deny a warm bed, a hot lunch, or health care to any child of any race, creed, religion, or gender. Yet they oppose government programs designed to accomplish these very things.
The people I am talking about are Catholics, Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Mormons… just about everything you can imagine. Farmer John happens to be a United Methodist. I see these folks every week. We attend youth football, baseball, basketball, and soccer games. They root and cheer for their team – but they do not favor anyone who disrespects a child. They understand youth sports as exercises in both fun and character building. Farmer John is like that – a good old boy who loves his family, his friends, and his country.
We live in a disturbing time when political discourse no longer resembles the character traits we try to instill in our children. Farmer John would never think of cheating to give his sport team an advantage. He would never allow tampering with the referees or with the equipment. John likes a fair fight. John would never think of cheating a customer purchasing his grain or his cattle. If John sells you a bushel of corn – you get a full bushel. John expects a fair market price for the product of his labors.
Farmer John is a man who succeeded in business by playing by the rules.
The rules of politics are not so easily defined as the rules of the farmer’s market. One rule we in America value is Freedom of Speech. But we have to ask – are there limits to reasonable speech? We have a right to lie if we want to – freedom of speech makes no differentiation between truth and lies. Certainly we have a right to our opinion. And we have a right to express our opinion. This post is a case in point. Which brings us to the focal point of a responsible democracy.
Democracy is not easy. Being a citizen in a representative government is not easy – it was never meant to be easy. Every person has a responsibility to participate. And participating means that we have to educate ourselves. We have to deny those who would bribe the referees into making false accusations. In fact, each of us becomes a referee – we have a responsibility to keep our eyes on the game. We cannot be misled by the cheering section of one team over another.
This means that we have to understand the rules. We have to apply more than just opinion – we have to base our opinion on truth. We cannot depend on the fan cheering section to help us make the correct call.
I am one who is guilty of demonizing those who disagree with my political persuasion. For that I am sorry. I cannot say for certain that I will never commit this sin again – probably because I enjoy political sarcasm. But I can say this – on the whole, political demonizing has not served our country well. I will not demonize Farmer John – I respect Farmer John. I do not always agree with his politics – but I find the man very agreeable.