I unhappily report today that our message is not getting through. How do I know this? It first occurred to me last month as I trudged back to my truck after another long day at work along with other trudgers whose daily work lives involve the MARC commuter train system.
One of my fellow trudgers, a long-time commuting acquaintance who delights in passing the time between late or annulled MARC trains by ribbing me about the latest Republican or Bush administration foible. A retired army non-com, he disapproves of everything the current government does and we have interesting debates. His political acumen, however, is limited and his opinions tend to be formed, like so many others, in the Democratic echo chamber of the mainstream media.
So together we trudged and debated as we have on so many occasions until he stopped and wheeled around to face me. This is it, I thought, he's snapped and now he's going to resort to violence. I tensed and waited for the strike, when he suddenly he changed the subject as though he just remembered something very important that he wanted to tell me.
"Did you know that we are paying farmers to not grow anything?" he asked, expecting me to fall over and die. "Not only that," he continued when I didn't appear as dumb-struck as he expected, " but we are paying millions to rich farming conglomerates!"
Well, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. He had just heard the news about the Congressional debate over the most recent Farm subsidy reauthorization. I wanted to tell him that, unfortunately this has been the case ever since the Great Depression, that yes, of course I knew this and have remained a Republican largely because of it and many other ridiculous wastes of tax revenue, etc.
But, why? He wanted to know. Well I took the time to explain the purely political reasons behind the ancient policy he just discovered and the very real economic impact of such politics on the poor nations of the world. I don't think I made a convert that night but maybe, just maybe, he'll hesitate come the general election before voting for Hillary Clinton.
More recently, on the Metro this time, another commuting acquaintance took the occasion to explain to me his plan for getting another of his kids into a private school. The tuition is eating him alive, he said, but what can he do? The public school stinks on ice. I was about to leave him with my trademark "almost makes you want to vote Republican," when he said he was going to look into a tuition voucher. Intrigued, I asked what sort of voucher he had in mind. Well he had heard about private school tuition vouchers "on the news" and was going to look into Maryland's program to see if he qualified.
I almost missed my stop. I was this time, dumbstruck. I recovered in enough time, though, to advise him that looking into the Maryland school voucher program would be a waste of time, as there isn't one. No? No. We could have had one, I said, but your friends and neighbors voted against the last time it was on the ballot. Oh. "Almost makes you want to vote Republican, doesn't it?" I said as I left the train. Yeah, I heard him say.