Saturday, August 11, 2007

Real People

Some years ago I attended a graduation ceremony at which the guest speaker was General Al Gray, who was then the Commandant of the Marine Corps. General Gray was a stocky fireplug of a man with a gravelly voice and an engaging, twisted grin, and that evening he delivered a great speech about leadership. One of the tenets of leadership, General Gray said, was the ability of a leader to pass what he called "The 7-11 Test": whether the average guy buying his cup of coffee at the 7-11 would think what you wanted to do made sense.

I don't think many of our current elected leaders can pass the 7-11 test, because they've lost the ability to talk, as General Gray could, to the folks I call "Real People."

If you've been reading this blog for very long, you know that I often refer to "real people," the average working people in what we sometimes call the middle, lower, or working class, the people who pay the taxes and buy the goods and provide the bedrock upon which the country is built. They're the people the Founders talked about when the wrote "We, the People" as the first three words of the Constitution. And they're the people least likely to be of particular concern to the political and economic leadership of the country.

Real People aren't pampered celebrities with the pull to get them out of trouble. They don't have a lobby in Congress to explain all the reasons why they shouldn't have to pay taxes, or why the taxes they pay in Iowa should be used to build eight-lane highways in West Virginia. They're not rich or politically well-connected. They worry about affordable health care for their families, bridges that won't collapse under them, and religious fanatics who come to America and insist on rights and privileges they routinely and unashamedly deny to others at home. In the words of the song "Israelites" by Desmond Decker, they "Get up in the morning, slaving for bread, sir, so that every mouth can be fed."

I like Real People because, well, they're real. They have a certain amount of common sense that doesn't quite believe everything the politicians tell them. They take simple, practical positions on important issues, avoiding the polarizing extremes that have so wrecked political discourse in America. They recognize problems and come up with solutions.

And as they buy that cup of coffee at the local 7-11, they wish for a few more Al Grays who could talk to them as equals about the practical things they care about.

If you're a Real Person, you're always welcome at Bilbo's Place. I'll even make you the coffee so you don't have to stop at the 7-11 first. But if you're a posturing phony, interested only in living the irresponsible good life or imposing your religious beliefs on others while insisting on rights you'd deny to them, please move on.

There are plenty of places on line for the intolerant and pigheaded. This isn't one of them.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


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