Searching for Middle America
J. D. Pendry
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
I had to go up the hollar again.† I went there looking for Middle America.† I figured that if I could find it anywhere, itíd be up the hollar.† I found a nice spot where I could watch the creek flowing by.† The sounds of trickling water settle the mind.†† I picked up my obligatory hand full of pebbles to chuck into the creek.† But, instead of doing that, something else caught my attention.† Across a field at the edge of the trees were a doe and a couple of fawns.† The fawns were frolicking and the doe was grazing, watching as she did Ė ever cautious and protective of the fawns.†† It wonít be long before the deer get into the gardens to eat the green beans and into the front yard to eat the blooms from the Impatiens.† They were here first, so we mange to get along OK with them.† On the other hand, I think they just tolerate us.
Looks like Iím not the only one thatís hunting for Middle America. The politicians are too. They keep insisting that itís broken and aim to fix it when they find it.††† Iím not sure if itís broken.† At least itís not from my perspective here by the creek.† When politicians set out to fix something, it concerns me some.† Besides, Iím not convinced theyíd know middle America if it hit them between the eyes with a number 2 long-handled coal shovel.† Letís see if we can figure out why that is.
In the camps of the political campaigns, graduates of Yale or Harvard (not exactly bastions of middle America) define Middle America for their candidates.† They use poll results, statistics and charts.† From some academicís doctorial thesis, they produce a formal definition for Middle America.† Probably says something like:† Middle America is somewhat conservative in nature, largely blue collar, has a good work ethic and basic Christian values. From the last census, theyíll learn that the median income is $XX, XXpercentage of them own their own homes and XXpercentage of them have college degrees.† The poll results tell them in which issues, state-by-state, Middle America is most interested.† From that, a legion of political minions plans the candidateís strategy for him.† There you have it.† The political candidate sees Middle America (you, me, the wife, our couple of kids, a dog and the pickup truck) as statistics, poll results and charts to which he must connect in order to get elected.†† Instead of living, breathing people, Middle America becomes for the politician an entity that also just happens to vote.† Politicians need Middle America defined for them because it is something to which most of them have never been part.† Thatís why you see them pulling off their Armani suit coats, taking off their ties, rolling up their sleeves and worshiping with the common folk on Sunday.† Theyíre connecting.† They want to show that theyíre common workingmen, in touch with you and feeling your pain.† You wonít find them sitting here by the creek chewing on a birch twig and watching the deer frolic.† They donít know about this piece of middle America so, donít you go tell them.†† If they knew about it, theyíd come here and try to fix it.
Do you know the difference between us and a country classified as undeveloped third world?† The third world does not have large middle class populations defined as reasonably educated, productive, working class people.† Instead, they have small elite ruling classes and large, mostly illiterate peasant classes.† The peasants are mostly farmers who work land owned by the elites.† There are no viable systems (education and industry) in place to elevate the peasant classes out of the fields.† When they tire of scratching in the dirt for what amounts to subsistence, they migrate into the city slums and eventually chase away their elite ruling class leaders with machetes.† Then some of the peasants become the elite leaders and the cycle starts over.† In our nation, the middle class falls somewhere between Bill Gates and a single welfare mother.† When you squeeze the two together, the workingmen and women who truly comprise Middle America pop out.†† Unlike the third world, we donít chase our leaders off with machetes, although some merit that.† Instead, we watch them attack one another with a level of nastiness thatís more destructive to our country and to them than peasant machetes ever could be.† Each four years, one group chases away the other and the cycle starts over.† That completes your sociology lesson.
Along with your help, I thought we might assist our politicians with their quest to find and connect with Middle America.† Maybe, if they know and understand it somewhat better, theyíll make wiser choices.† To establish the parameters, there is a basic, but important difference between politicians and me.† The difference is that I donít profess to speak for all of Middle America.† I only speak for me, so if I leave out anything feel free to pipe in for the benefit of politician education.† But, donít do it too loudly, itís peaceful here and we donít want to scare off the deer.
In My Middle America:
The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag still means something.† I am proud to live in one nation declaratively under God.† Even if the Supreme Court says I canít, I still will because the pledge states what I believe.† I do not insist that anyone recite the pledge as I do or believe in what I believe.† I think itís a great waste of the Supreme Courtís time to bother with the issue, and similar ones, and an even greater waste of my taxes.
Service to our country is important.† I [middle America] am in the hills of Afghanistan and patrolling the cities of Iraq proudly serving my country.† My purpose is noble.† Because of me, millions of oppressed people now share the freedom I cherish.† Iím growing confused, however, over political bickering.† Because of it, my morale is suffering.† To do well the job my country needs, I require the united support of my countryís leaders and its people.† Iím not seeing that and without it, I begin to doubt my purpose.† I am the tip of our spear in the war against terror.† It takes a total effort to keep me sharp and pointed toward the enemies of our country.
Workingmen and women keep this country moving.† I am a carpenter, mechanic, nurse, schoolteacher, fireman, policeman, truck driverÖ but I am not the union boss.† We work hard out here in Middle America.† When we shake hands with a man, weíre not interested in his professional manicure.† Weíre interested in evidence of an honest dayís labor, something that escapes the resume of lifelong politicians.†† Politicians should not believe that union boss support translates into my support.† Union bosses sit far from where I do.† They view the world through eyes more akin to yours than mine.† They too, are politicians.
We value respect and want our children to learn it.† You make the job of teaching them respect more difficult.† I donít understand the utter lack of civility and respect displayed by prominent men and women toward one another.† Itís common for many to address our President by his last name and quite often in a derisive manner.† It doesnít matter that you like the President or not.† How can I teach my children to show respect toward others when they see constant disrespect shown to the leader of our country by men and women of supposed high and respectable stature?† For example, Iím afraid I do not see the humor in using the Presidentís face as a doormat as is happening now at the Democrat National Headquarters**.
We value the golden rule, but not in the spirit itís employed in political campaigns.† We are more interested in hearing from you about what you intend to do than we are what the other guy did or might do.
We value the straight truth.† Spare us the spin.† For example, when we see the news, we want it to be actual news and not politically slanted commentary.† If the purpose is to sell us a book along with your political agenda, please put the info-mercial disclaimer up front.† Then we can decide to listen to it or not.
Fixing problems is more important than placing blame for them.† Trying to score political points by fixing blame during a time of a global terror war is doing nothing to protect me and I know it.† Period.† Congressional public hearings should be on Comedy Central not the news.
In the interest of keeping this short, Iíll quit here.† However, Mr./Ms. Politician, having pondered it for sometime now, Iím not so sure that Middle America is what needs fixiní.† Consider the small amount of insight provided as a starting point for you to begin fixiní whatís truly broken.† Let me leave you with a thought as you continue to slander one another throughout this general election year.† Our relationship with you is like the one I have with those frolicking deer over there by the tree line.† We were here first.† Itís we that must accept, or connect, with you.† All the polls you can manage to absorb and all the opportunities you take to roll up your sleeves or attend Church for the cameras are only going to raise you to a level of toleration.† The leader who, along with his political party, rises above the fray with a positive message and a positive direction for us is the leader to which weíll connect and accept.
Copyright © JD Pendry, 2004