Thank God I’m a Farm Boy Political History Prof and Not a Freaking Politician

The more time that I spend here in Washington on Capitol Hill listening to Congressmen and reading criticisms about anything the President does or does not do and criticisms of the fewer and fewer actions taken by Congress if such actions, like it or not, were necessary for the good of country and supported by the President, makes me feel blessed and lucky to have been reared back in Livingston Parish Louisiana. (Taking a deep breath)

That feeling is not based on nostalgia or some rose colored glass syndrome. It’s based on the people who were and still are my role models regardless of whether they have passed away like my Grandfather, his twin brother, my Uncle, former school teachers, parents of friends, and other residents of the area or if they are still alive either as a “retired” senior citizen like my Dad, parents of lifelong friends, my own peers, their younger siblings, or now my friends’ adult children.

Back in the Free State, I discovered that nobody was perfect. Everyone made mistakes. Each had their flaws, and each had their strengths. Both at home and at school, I heard that I was special. The thing was that I also heard that the person next to me, my friend on the next row, that person over yonder who I did not know, and everyone else was special as well. I also learned that I had certain abilities for which it was my responsibility to strengthen and use to their fullest potential. Others had the same and different abilities at levels equal, less, or greater than mine, but they shared in that same duty of doing their best.

Sure you could make yourself look better by pushing others back or down and make it appear that you had achieved a higher level in comparison. Doing so, however, meant halting your own momentum upwards or forwards. Therefore to reach the highest echelons or move the greatest distances, it was to your benefit to try and pull or encourage those behind or below up higher. If you happened to reach what you felt was an apex, that person trailing might be just the push needed to burst you through to a previously unfathomable stage.

The other things I found out are that you make the most with what you have and that no problem will be solved just by pointing to that problem, complaining, and nobody fixing it. For example, if I was out working in the field and the tractor stopped running, I still had to get whatever task I had been doing completed. The only thing to care about as to why the tractor stopped was that knowledge would help with getting it back running. Your fault, his fault, her fault, my fault, anybody’s fault did not make one bit of difference with my ultimate responsibility.

The same was true if I were out on the lake checking my crab nets, on the river setting my trout and limb lines, or wading through the swamp pulling my crawfish traps. When something broke, most of the time the temporary fix was not pretty. A roll of duck tape, some fishing string, and sticks picked from the ground, rocks, digging down to some sticky clay and curing some little structure formed from it in the heat, pine tree sap for adhesive, and whatever else happened to be about often turned wasted time into a profitable period until real repairs could be made. If that ole outboard conked out, I’d better be paddling or something if I failed to get it cranked because it would have been twixt now and whenever someone found me to help.

If someone just complains about problems you already know exist, what good are they?

Now if they are posing legitimate possibilities on how to fix the problem or actually trying to do something to fix it, then they are doing what they should be. Simply because everyone sees a problem, talks about it, and blames someone else doesn’t get the thing fixed any faster. Actually it makes it more difficult for someone to fix things when too many people are either just getting in the way or flapping their gums to get that person working and anyone else to look at them.

One other thing is that when you are out on a bateau or in a pirogue and learn the hard way that your oar was already cracked or wound up becoming unusable for paddling thanks to what was in reality about a 4 foot long gator although he has grown each time I tell the story to about 8 foot long today, it honestly does not make any difference if that man who sees you in distress happens to have white, black, brown, yellow, red, or any other color skin. His religion, preference, politics, and what not, to put it clearly, don’t matter neither.

It matters, however, if he has an extra paddle to lend you, is willing to let you tie on and pull you, or will push you to the bank or maybe even back to your launch. What’s really cool is if you get pushed to the bank, and with the aid of a good knife are able to demonstrate to the helping soul how one can make a good push stick from a long tree branch and a paddle from some sugarcane, bark from a sycamore tree, and split pine, with the help of a stick turned drill and dowel and braided with cut wiregrass. You might get directions to a little known artesian flow well.

I may disagree a little more with some of the President’s recent positions than some earlier ones, but for all the criticisms levied at him, the opposition sure doesn’t have any alternatives on the table to try and do a better job fixing the problems. All they seem capable of doing is talking about, crying about, and keeping anything from working on the problem in hopes that the problem will grow larger and hurt more so that if someone is capable or allowed to get things working they will look more impressive than they really are.

Even a Livingston Parish barefooted strawberry boy knows that trying to look better by making others appear worse is only shallow insecurity which it doesn’t take graduate degrees or a History professor to figure out. Neither extreme of me, however, can figure out why people want to make a living off of their own insecurity about others getting opportunities to move ahead and why people who truly pour blood, sweat, and tears to make a living help finance those blood suckin’ screech owl sounding chill inducing leeches. (The Bogart scene where he pulls the African Queen always comes to mind when I think of leeches).