A Toothpaste Metaphor

I remember my dad telling me a story about some people he knew getting a divorce over how to squeeze a tooth paste tube. That just seemed like the craziest thing to me. The man liked to squeeze the tube in the middle and the woman liked to squeeze her tube from the end. It didn’t make any sense! I must have been ten or eleven years old the time I heard the story. At that age it seemed so obvious that if this issue truly was irreconcilable the solution was simple. His and hers tubes of tooth paste could have saved that marriage. Nobody listens to kids. IMG_0161
It’s funny how stories like that stick with you. My wife is one of those evil middle of the tube squeezers. It never occurred to me to get angry about it. I simply squeeze the tube from the end like I would anyway and I eliminate all signs of her past transgression. I’m fairly certain that she doesn’t begin each day looking at the tube of toothpaste and screaming to the ceiling, “Damn you Chris! You’ve erased all of the evidence that I stand against conformity and civility by squeezing the tube from the end!” At least I’ve never heard her say such a thing. I suppose I should ask if it bothers her. I suppose it’s no more impossible that she has lived in anguish with that annoying habit of mine, squeezing the toothpaste from the end, for thirty five years, than someone would actually divorce over it. Things could be boiling to a head and I don’t even know it. (My wife would like me to point out that she understands I am somewhat OCD. I’m not sure why she insisted I add this point while editing.)
I suppose that particular divorce was more about spite than anything else. If it were anything else my solution as a boy or the one I employ as a devoted husband would have been enough. I don’t know if that particular couple had children or not. If they did, I would imagine that has more to do with our current state of affairs than anything. We seem to find more satisfaction in political victories than solutions these days. I hope that couple went on to find happiness in their lives. I’m the sort who needs a partner to share my life with. “Live and let live” is an idiom that originated in the trenches during WWI. It was a coping mechanism to facilitate conflict avoidance. It was born of the ideal that while facing arduous circumstance unity was required to succeed against a greater evil. We need more of that. It doesn’t really matter where we squeeze the toothpaste.


Trump Voters Aren’t The Problem. Anymore.

It’s interesting what you can learn if you listen. A big thing on many of our minds has revolved around the idea that America has lost its mind, our character, our moral standing. Ask any Trump supporter or those who loath him and we all seem to agree the other side is to blame. How is that possible? Many welcome the rejection of progressive values and delight in the setbacks inflicted upon the liberal agenda. Others abhor the current administration and the irreparable assault upon their values. We can’t both be right. United we stand. Divided… we will fall.

In talking with Trump supporters it is clear that they are fine with whatever it takes to return to a sense that their opinions and their values are recognized. Many who believed progress was made in the Obama administration are quick to assign labels of racist, homophobic and anti Islamist upon the them for that. When you talk to those embracing the Trump administration you quickly get a sense that more than anything they hate those labels. They are tired of values that don’t match their world view being thrust upon them with the condemning judgement with which it is often delivered.

Progressives scorn the Republican politicians who wrap legislation cloaked in populist language that convince many of their constituents to support policy against their own interests. We say they are stupid. But are they? The messaging from conservative interests are incessantly wrapped in patriotism, talk of family values, anti-elitism and a disdain for intellectualism. They narrowly define a homogenous demographic that matches the communities from where their voters reside. They convince a populace that suffers the challenges of a changing world that they are looking out for people like them. Imagine your manufacturing job is gone. Imagine the variable rate mortgage you refinanced became unaffordable and you lost your home. Imagine you’ve lost your health care and forget that before Obama it was impossible to get with your preexisting condition. People who don’t look like them but face the same struggles are inaccurately blamed. When those people who lost the same things they did speak out demanding the same things they do they see them as standing in the way of a life that can never be reclaimed. Then some good looking millionaire tells you none of this is your fault. You’re the good guy. You love God, America and your family and if it weren’t for those other people you could be a millionaire too.

Progressives can’t see past the idea that we are all in this together. They think everyone should understand that. When a desperate mother or father subscribes to the conservative message we wield our righteous superior thinking and obvious better education and expect them to recognize how stupid they are, how racist, how small minded. When Trump supporters continually hear the talking heads of mainstream media condemning their values and conservative media keeps telling them they are not the problem, liberals did this to them and if they stay tuned in America will be great again; where would you get your news? The divide is reinforced in a vicious cycle and we are all certain that we are right.

The one thing I’ll cling to in this us vs them divide is that we are, all in this together. We will never have the political clout to effect change if we continually fight amongst ourselves. We need to let go of the repulsion we feel when people fear monger and blame others while refusing to accept accountability for their current condition. Both sides. Politicians drunk with power and commitment to big money are the problem. Both sides. The challenges faced by this country are not new. When facing the struggles we all face it comes back to the old adage, follow the money. Who benefits from the policies and agendas put forth? One thing is certain, it ain’t we the people. Maybe, if we do want to make America great again, that’s where we need to start.

The Dignity Of Labor Through A Son’s Eyes

As I mowed my lawn in the ninety degree heat Saturday I watched the lawn service trucks moving through my neighborhood. With sweat getting in my eyes I fantasized about the luxury of allowing a crew to do my work. There are three reasons I dismissed the notion. First, I actually like mowing my lawn. Second, I was raised to do the work in capable of doing and finally I find great comfort in the reminder that I come from working class roots.
I do love to mow. The combination of the smell of fresh cut grass, the sun shining on my shoulders and the instant gratification of seeing my lawn transform with each pass is, in its own way, intoxicating. There is an almost spiritual element IMG_0152associated with tending God’s green earth, the proverbial hands in the earth thing. I grew up in Iowa and there is a great respect for farmers born in the gratitude of their hard work and bountiful harvests. In some small way the attention I show my landscaping brings me closer to my agrarian heritage.
My parents were raised feeling the economic hardships of the depression. They never stated as such but I sense they thought it foolish to pay someone else to do what one was capable of doing themselves. There’s nothing wrong with providing opportunities for others as a means to defer tasks one might not enjoy. My opinion is that a man’s character can in part be measured by his willingness to do what needs to be done. As much as I love to mow; would I prefer to be out on my Harley or purusing the local farmers market? Yes. Yet somehow those activities are a little sweeter after I’ve completed my chores. A side benefit is that mowing my lawn racks up over 7,000 of the standard 10,000 steps fitness standard.
The final reason I may never pay anyone to mow my lawn comes from respect for my father. My dad was the CEO of IMG_0153Clayton’s DX, a two bay neighborhood gas station where my grandpa and I, after my older brother, served as his only employees once I was old enough and outside of school hours. Anyone who has spent time around an auto shop knows there are few professions more physically challenging. It’s heavy dirty work that is hot in the summer and cold in the winter. My dad did that ten hours a day, six days a week and then would come home, do his books and attend anything and everything that was required to maintain our home. He never complained. He never required down time or alone time. For him, life’s value was found in being with those he loved and attending to their wants and needs.
I think in my dad’s best year he cleared $18,000 and yet somehow I don’t recall ever wanting for anything. I have the luxury of a job I love and the freedom from any real money concerns. I think my dad never questioned his state in life AD02B0D8-179D-4900-97D7-A0A53AC9003Bbecause he was driven by duty and found honor in providing a safe, joyful and loving home. I think of him often when I mow. I remember the silly straw hat with the red bandana he wore when he worked in the yard. I still have that hat. I don’t wear it because if I breath deeply enough I imagine I can still smell the sweet aroma of his hard work.

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