Greetings from the Ridge.
One of the remaining joys of small town living is the fact that nearly everybody in town will pass through the same door during the course of the day. We may not all get our mail at the same time but if you hang around our local post office long enough you’ll likely encounter most of our little burg’s residents.
Sure, there are some folks who might cause you to take another lap around the block before entering, giving them and their long-winded stories a chance to move on down the street, but most folks around here are just as interested in you as they are in themselves so they make for good conversation.
Yesterday I took the time to chat with my old friend Richard at the post office counter and positioned myself to see the folks coming in and out of the lobby. Richard was upset at the stalled ship of fools that we now call Washington D.C. As he worried about what might come of the mess, I saw Carl get out of his car. Carl served in Korea, came back to town to help out in his dad’s tire shop then eventually bought the place and has now retired himself. Carl worries, too. He goes to the V.A. hospital twice a year to treat a recurring illness and he wonders whether they’ll be open for his next visit. Carl doesn’t belong to the Tea Party, the UCLU, or any other organization other than the VFW. He voted for Romney but considered Obama to be a decent enough fellow. Carl got his mail and drove out.
As Carl got into his car he waved at Helen. I couldn’t hear what they were saying through the post office window but by the shortness of their greeting I assumed it concerned the weather. Helen isn’t covered by the same health plan that’s offered her local Congressman. She doesn’t understand Obama Care and although she’s not necessarily against it, it confuses her. She’s heard plenty of talk about the vote to raise the debt ceiling and as a concerned citizen she’s tried to learn what it all means. It’s been hard. She no longer has an objective Walter Cronkite to turn to at the end of day to help her make sense of such complicated matters.
Helen stopped a moment to talk with Sherry who had taken advantage of the balmy weather to put her twins into their double-stroller and walk up to get the mail. The Marks twins are our town’s celebrities and they are a balm to many an old heart when their mother brings them down the street. We have to use caution when Sherry and the twins are out cruising the sidewalks because every car passing by will stop in the middle of the street to catch a glimpse of our cuties. Sherry has never contributed a dime to a political campaign in her life. She’s never had the cash to spare for such things and she figures that in a democracy that ought to be allowed. This means she’s not among the less than 500 richest people who make the largest campaign contributions in the nation. When the Supreme Court decided to open up the floodgates for contributions deciding that buying an election was anyone’s First Amendment rights, Sherry didn’t hear about it. She was too busy changing diapers.
Mike Peterson might be the funniest man in town. He’s a Viet Nam veteran who survived the conflict in pretty good shape, and if you want a good laugh, just ask Mike’s opinion on anything. He’s also the unofficial town historian, but the facts he knows about the local residents can’t be printed in the town’s official records. The thing I like most about Mike is that he’s well read. He keeps up on goings-on in Washington and doesn’t rely upon cable news networks to form his viewpoint. I used to enjoy talking to him about politics but something’s happened lately. If you bring up the fiscal crisis or current lack of meaningful legislation, he’ll change the subject. He told me, “I used to think I had a say in what went on in my country. Now it’s owned by somebody else. They’ve arranged the voting districts so they’ll never have any opposition.” Mike used to be fun.
President Obama has given a good number of speeches saying that he’s speaking for the American people. Speaker of the House John Boehner often begins his sentences with, “Speaking on behalf of the American citizen. . .” But I’ve got to wonder. . . Who’s speaking for Carl? Who’s speaking for Helen and Sherry and her twin girls? Who truly represents how Mike feels?
I hesitate to pen these words, but when a people feel too disaffected from what’s going on in their government, the outcome is never pleasant. I pray for a few men or women of courage who hold their character more dear than their next election.
You ever in Coonridge, stop by. We may not answer the door but you'll enjoy the trip.