Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Long Ride to the Middle Road

I spent the last couple of days in a Ford hybrid with a work associate on some long drives for government business. I was a little surprised when my friend said that he had a whole bookcase full of political books from Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Mark Levin, Ann Coulter, Sarah Palin, etc. My response was to facetiously ask, "but aren't you then working for the enemy?" (us feds). He didn't seemed phased by that as he said most of his office was conservative. So I cautiously tried to understand.

Without engaging in outright argument, we prodded and sorted out the differences of opinion. He did agree with some of my views particularly about the value of government for certain things like federal highways and surveys of public land (which was what we were doing). He also noted that a lot of people in the West want control of federal public lands unless its more convenient and less expensive for the feds to manage them. He understands that the reason we have public lands is because nobody else wanted them and we were left to manage them for multiple, best uses which only leads to fighting among all the varied interests with the feds caught in the middle. He also agreed that it was silly for the State of Utah to legislate gold and silver US coins as legal tender taking into account their intrinsic value as collectors' pieces. (Sorry, but that's just crazy).

And we did have our differences as I heard him sound at lot like Limbaugh at times with regard to ADA compliance or illegal immigrants committing crimes and getting welfare and health benefits. And he went on about excess regulation of the banking business which supposedly led to the housing crisis (the theory being they were required to lend to so many [minorities] who simply were not able to pay back the loans). And he buys a lot of guns, etc. And he was really animated about a flat tax and no deductions. He said that it was only fair to tax everyone at the same percentage disregarding my argument that ten percent of $1,000 is more to the person with only that $1,000 than ten percent of ten million dollars is to the person still holding $9,000,000.

I had to concede by my silence that some of his criticisms had validity with him running through a litany you can easily find on conservative websites in the tone of Pelosi saying "We have to pass the bill so we can find out what's in it." But I contended most fiercely when the talk turned to school teachers and their relative value in society compared with the guys on Wall Street. He didn't buy my argument that it didn't make any sense that the Wall Street guy worked thousands of times harder or better to be worth thousands of times more than the salary the teacher made. He was pretty torched about unions and incompetent teachers and really believed the old joke that those who can't do, teach. (We didn't even get to the punch-line that those who can't teach, teach gym). I did cheat a little in playing the family card about my wife and daughter being teachers, and hard-working, good ones at that. He had to concede the point that there are those "rare exceptions."

The greatest area of agreement, which also proves he is no true-believing tea partier (but then we had already established that he worked for the enemy) was when I gave my personal philosophy, conceding the odd idealism, that I don't think there really are any right answers when it comes to politics. What is really important is how we treat each other. The ends don't justify the means, the means are everything. And that we have a Constitution that establishes processes to work together to find common ground with our differences the best way possible. And that's the only way it can work when we as a people govern ourselves.

The absolutely best part was when he dropped me off and we warmly said our good-byes, complementing each other that our work went well. And his parting words were that he really enjoyed our time together. He seemed like he really meant it. And so did I.

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