We need to find a consensus on solving our problemsJul 05, 2022 12:13PM ● By Bryan Gray
Not a day goes by that I don’t pass a vehicle – usually a truck – with a vinyl message on the back window proclaiming “We the People,” a political stance suggesting that the urban-educated are enemies of the “common man.” It is another indication that Americans are sadly separating themselves into tribes rather than people with differing ideas attempting to solve similar problems.
Last week I attended a sporting event where I was seated next to a man whose appearance was a common man stereotype. A large muscular, tattooed worker, he looked like the kind of guy who could hurt you in an arm wrestle. If he was in a card game, you’d think twice about cheating. Even though I doubted we would agree politically or have much in common, I struck up a conversation.
He was a 48-year-old oil worker. Taking after his father, he had worked the oil fields in Utah’s Uintah Basin his entire adult life. He enjoyed the rural lifestyle (“It’s the kind of place where we do our own oil changes and know how to change a tire!” he laughed.)
The “city folk,” he said, don’t understand the challenges he and his neighbors face. Of course, some were the same.
“We can’t get workers,” he said. “I’m offering $30 an hour starting to any 18-year-old willing to learn the oil fields, but we can’t get any interest. They all want to play video games and take classes in technology – and most don’t want to stay where they grew up.”
The housing crunch is also not just an urban problem. “We can’t find workers to build homes,” he said. “I bought my current house five years ago for $230,000; today the house is worth almost $600,000. It’s crazy, but housing is scarce.”
His wife has a part-time job, but her earnings go to the expenses associated with their daughter’s “comp” softball team. “I figure it costs about $7,000 each year, but so far I don’t mind it as long as she takes it seriously. Hey, money spent on keeping a child active and involved is money well-spent as far as I’m concerned.”
I anticipate he is one of the “America First” blue-collar workers Donald Trump relied upon to win the 2016 election. I am wrong.
“I don’t get involved in politics,” he said. “In election after election, I just can’t believe we don’t have better candidates to vote for. I look at it this way, Trump is a con man who ran up the national debt while giving tax cuts to the rich. Now we have Biden who is too old and not up for the job. The Republicans only care about their rich cronies while the Democrats are all focused on climate change. The country is going to hell in a hand basket and neither of the two parties understand how to stop it.”
I don’t know if he has a “We the People” decal on his truck. But I do know he is exactly the type of American we need to converse with if we are to reach a consensus in the country’s direction and future. If you asked him, he would probably even bring the beer too. λ