Up the holler, they’re called winders. “Boy, you better stop throwin rocks ‘fore you break out a winder.” When my Army bride and I moved into our first home – a one bedroom trailer – just outside Fort Eustis, Virginia, we thought we were living big. After a few months of saving money from our $290.00 monthly paycheck, we went to the store and bought some curtains. They didn’t exactly fit the windows, but looked better than the daisy printed bed sheets they replaced. We admired those curtains along with our 1966 Ford Fairlane with its leaky radiator and recapped tires that sat in our dirt driveway. Yes, it sat more often than it went. Still, we thought life was good.
They’re not curtains anymore. They’re now window treatments. You don’t buy them at K-Mart either. Instead, the “House of Drapes” lady visits with the bride who once accepted daisy printed bed sheets on the windows. Windows are measured. Colors, materials and other things like how many swags is enough are discussed. A few months later the window treatments and a professional installer arrives. No. You can’t just hang a curtain rod anymore either. Eight hundred thousand dollars later, custom made, professionally installed window treatments bless a room we rarely use. Oh, they look wonderful. Our window treatments, however, do not perform the basic functions of letting the light in when it’s wanted and keeping peering neighbors out when they’re not any better than would have curtains from K-mart. I usually choose function over style, but I’m not in charge of interior decorating in the Pendry household.
I like pick-up trucks too. I like them even better when they’re mud splattered. I also like Jeeps, Broncos, Blazers, Jimmys and Rams. These are four wheel drive vehicles with a purpose that usually involves rough road, deep snow or mud. There are folks that wouldn’t get within a half-mile of such vehicles and would never let one grace a driveway in their neighborhood. Ah, but these same folks drive (lift your nose up in the air and say it in a nasally, I’m better than you tone) Sports Utility Vehicles. The Lincoln, Cadillac, Mercedes, BMW and Lexus varieties. None of which will ever encounter a muddy trail or have a need to actually engage the four-wheel drive. Did I forget to mention Hummers? Like window treatments, they exceed the basic model in glitz and price, but not much in function. Besides, who wants to get mud on a Lexus?
Then there are people. We compare and select our friends and heroes much the same way we choose between curtains and window treatments. Unfortunately, we too often choose style over substance and glitz before functionality. How else can you explain Bill Clinton? Our selections say more about us than those we select. In the Army, we all made personal assessments of our leaders. When we encountered one that was more style than substance - and fortunately, that wasn’t too often - we’d describe him or her with expressions such as “mile wide and an inch deep” or “all show and no go”. These leaders were great at rhetoric, pomp and ceremony, but they didn’t get much mud on them and often hindered mission accomplishment rather than enable it.
Look at our movie action heroes. John Wayne was a mud splattered, punch you in the nose movie hero. He didn’t need many special effects to convey the story. It also helped that he could act some. Ahnold (the actor) on the other hand is a scowl backed by smoke and mirrors. He needs special effects to cover for his lack of acting ability. When it gets right down to it, I’ll pick the Duke over the Terminator. Did you ever watch John Riggins play football? He wasn’t anything spectacular. He couldn’t out run you so he ran over you on the way to the end zone. When he scored, he didn’t spike the ball, do a dance or taunt his opponents. He was substance over style, function over glitz.
We are fortunate to live in a country that gets to pick its leaders. We need to keep glitz versus substance in mind when doing it. We have to choose leaders willing to call evil what it is and with the courage to confront it – alone if necessary. We need leaders who will share with us who they are and not waiver from their professed faith, values or principles. We need honest leaders that do what they tell us they’ll do. America loved Ronald Regan because he was that kind of leader. He was a window into the real America. A window adorned with substance, hope, optimism and the basic goodness for which America stands. He confronted the evil of his time and did not fear traveling the rough trails necessary to defeat it. He did it with substance not glitz. We must pick future leaders of America willing to do the same.