I’ve met a lot of people across the country since those news cameras caught me doubting Barack Obama’s ideas for giving my money to someone else. Over the last 18 months I have mostly enjoyed my role speaking as and for average working Americans.
Nobody puts a cordon around me to keep the “little people” away because this Ohio plumber is one of the little people. I talk with just about everybody and it’s been an education.
Everywhere I go at least one person asks me what it’s like to meet the political and media “stars” I’ve come across and who we all see on the national stage. Maybe we all want to believe that the best about us can be found in these people because it is they who will have the real power to change the direction of the country.
I can tell you that some of these national figures are real and some are not. What else is new? The hotter the spotlight, the more the tendency to “go cardboard” with scripted remarks, handlers keeping people away and a distance between what is real and what is “packaging”. It’s not always the case but pretty common from what I’ve seen.
What I have found, however, is a deep well of good ideas, common sense, decency and strength of character in the everyday people I meet. If you really want to know what makes America strong and good and resilient, look to our hometowns, not to the national stage.
It is the realtors, the homemakers, truck drivers and bank tellers, the electricians and carpenters and mom and pop business owners who really have made this the greatest nation in the history of the world. This is where the real hope for our country lives. We work hard at our jobs, take risks to start new businesses, pray with thanks and humility, enjoy camping and hunting and movies and bowling and worry over our kids. The evening news and the NY Times hardly ever reflect the reality of who we really are unless it is to ridicule us.
I’ve heard a lot of stories over the past year and half about personal sacrifice, real heroism and love of country from veterans young and old. I’ve recently hunted with Paralyzed Veterans of America and met medal winners who are often reluctant to talk about what they did. What I have heard makes the most inspirational movie stories look as light as cotton candy.
I hear a lot of disappointment from people everywhere about the direction of the country and real fear about the mess we are leaving our children. And I hear a lot of anger and frustration from people about the distance between what we know is right and what we want for our country and what actually happens in Washington. Everywhere I go I find people are divided into those who believe we can make a difference and those who have become angry and bitter, believing that nothing we believe or do will make any difference at all to those in power.
Personally, I think that the real hope for our country has always lived “out here” and that we are the only power strong enough to roll over the self-serving political elite of both parties. Can anyone doubt that it is needed?
I’ve seen the rise of grassroots strength and hope in the Tea Parties and elsewhere and sometimes the backbiting and infighting between new groups that undermines more progress. But I have seen and heard enough to tell me that we are a people with a lot of ideas and values that, if empowered, will restore the nation and the promises made by our Founding Fathers in our Constitution and Bill of Rights. It’s worth a leap of faith for those who doubt it and worth the hard work for those who don’t. It’s our country and will be what we make of it.