Fred loved driving over the rolling hills of Eastern Ohio. A studious person who spent most of his time buried in books, it was an opportunity to emerge from the world crafted by the imaginations of authors and view and marvel at the real world of nature. It seemed to reinforce his deeply-held religious views which were challenged so often by writers he just finished reading. No matter what scientific evidence they presented, there always was the question of who created that evidence. Fred triumphantly exclaimed that it was just another proof of the existence of God.
Fred drove past many farms that were a major source of income for his little neighborhood. If he saw anyone, it was almost certain that he knew that person. He would wave. They would wave back then resume the never ending chores that occupied their time six days per week. With luck, he would encounter one or more people idly engaged in chatter or solo ruminations. That was considered an invitation to stop and "be neighborly." Sooner or later, everyone needed help in some endeavor of construction or repair. It was unthinkable to hire some business to do it.
Fred arrived at a crossroads. On two corners there was farmland. On the third there was undeveloped land. Weeds of numerous sizes grew freely. Trees ranged from tiny sumac to medium-sized wild cherry and hickory to large oak. On the fourth corner sat a small, one-story, shingled house. Fred concluded that this corner was a microcosm of the township.
Fred had spent many hours at the house. Most of those were discussions with his classmate Scot McCormack. Scott was naive, typical of residents of the area. He was a good sounding board for Fred's new ideas derived from his latest readings.
As luck would have it, Fred spotted someone shooting baskets in the back yard. It had to be Scot or his brother. Fred drove slowly toward the driveway. When he ascertained that it was Scot, he turned into the driveway that gave access to a detached two-car garage. The driveway also served as a floor for a basketball court. It was made of bricks and covered an area large enough to accommodate six or seven cars.
Scot watched the dark hood of a vehicle creep into view from behind the gray cement block garage walls. The car was familiar. It was the car of a Jehovah’s Witnesses family that lived about a mile away. It was a dark blue Chevrolet, the modest type that members of the religion preferred. Usually the appearance of a Jehovah’s Witness sparks an urge to scatter and hide. For Scot, the impulse was the exact opposite. It was an opportunity to enjoy an exotic discussion with one of his best friends.
“Afternoon Scot,” said the driver as he exited the old, boxy vehicle. He was dressed in jeans and a short-sleeved sports shirt. He didn’t wear a cap unlike most other teenagers at that time. He was stocky and muscular and about 5’ 7” tall.
“Hey Fred,” Scot responded in the local vernacular. “How’s the family?”
“Couldn’t be better.”
“Come. Sit down. Take a load off,” Scot invited, gesturing toward a cushioned chair on the porch. The porch stretched the length of the south side of the house providing an abundance of room that could accommodate numerous people. Porch gatherings were a common pastime in the community. Gregarious people made sure they had a long porch that was enticing and could hold a lot of people. The local people seldom arranged a visit. They drove by, and if they saw someone sitting on or standing near the porch, that was considered to be an invitation to visit.
The spontaneous stop by was quaint now, but later it would annoy Scot to no end, especially when he was in college. He hated when friends from home made surprise visits to his college dormitory and expected him to drop everything and entertain them. The habit was particularly aggravating when Scot had a new date arranged or was cramming for tests. Fred in particular had an uncanny way of appearing at the most inopportune times. Maybe it was his Jehovah’s Witnesses training that intuitively told him when someone was most likely at home. The unannounced visit had the advantage for the religious proselytizers that the target was caught off guard and didn’t have time to collect his or her thoughts and mount some type of defense or escape.
The sun left few shadows on the open porch indicating the time of day to be late afternoon. Fred sat down then shifted until the sun was not shining directly into his eyes. He was uncommonly dark skinned, and had thick, coal-black hair. He stood out in an otherwise light-skinned, rural community. Scot’s family members were light-skinned, and most had blond or red hair. Fred had a serious look on his face, which seemed to be permanent. Scot couldn’t remember ever hearing him laugh or seeing him smile for that matter. Fred seemed to believe he was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. He had an uncommon interest in politics for someone who was too young to vote and a member of a religion that particularly distrusted governments and didn’t vote as far as he knew. That in itself was unusual because politics were a taboo topic. Never discuss politics, sex or religion, the adults often said. Fred seemed to think he could talk to Scot about these forbidden topics, or politics, at least. Nonetheless, he always made small talk and discussed several other topics first. Politics always appeared to come up almost as a segue, but invariably, they came up.
Neither Fred nor his family members ever tried to proselytize their religion, as far as Scot knew. At least the subject never came up when the youngsters were around. Fred’s political discourses never mentioned religion but usually included serious moralizing.
Fred scanned the backyard. He spotted the horseshoe pits. “Interested in a game of horseshoes?” Fred asked. Rural life had the advantages of abundant room for sports, but the disadvantage of a lack of players sufficient to form teams. Consequently, rural residents had to settle for games such as horseshoes that require fewer players. Basketball was an anomaly. One person could shoot baskets and become proficient at the sport. To play competitively, he had to have access to a larger community.
The nation’s top scorer in college basketball grew up in this community. He held the record of over 100 points in a single college game. He had played outside in the summer with a couple friends. In the winter, a local farmer allowed him and his friends to use his barn for practice. Able to practice 12 months out of the year, he was able to hone his basketball talents to perfection. The farm boys had this advantage over the city boys. Consequently, they were disproportionately represented on the high school’s basketball teams.
As with authors in Ireland, opera singers in Italy, artists in France and ballet dancers in Russia, the national pride in the arts or athletics attracted more people to attempt to master that art. In this community, basketball was the sole pursuit in which someone had a chance of excelling nationally or globally.
No one from the community ever excelled at horse shoes, to Scot’s knowledge, but it had the appeal that it required only two or more people to play and required only a small area and simple equipment to set up.
Scot’s horseshoe course was constructed to meet professional standards, but lacked the clay pits required in formal competition. The pegs and shoes were competition grade. His father had built square wooden forms around the pits. The wooden frame contained most of the dirt kicked up each time a shoe struck the dirt surface with the cleats in the down position. If the dirt were dampened correctly, most of it stayed inside the wooden forms.
“I’m gonna beat you this time,” Fred asserted. He knew he had no chance of winning. Scot had constant access to the game and practiced regularly. He was far more proficient than his visitor. Often he went out and threw horseshoes alone for hours at a time. He found it to be therapeutic, and facilitated hashing over ideas his young mind was attempting to sort out.
“You go first,” Scot offered graciously as they rose and walked toward the pit.
“Give me a few practice rounds,” Fred requested. He took all of the shoes which were painted gold or silver to distinguish the teams.
Scot watched as Fred grasped the center of the back of the u-shaped shoe. There was a nub there that offered an extra, firmer grasp. Fred threw the shoe putting a backward flip and spin on it. The shoe went far too high to form a proper arc and landed several feet short of the wooden frame. Fred threw eight shoes before getting one inside the frame. None approached the peg in the center of the pit. None came close to scoring a point. The beauty of horseshoes is that close can count. The old adage “close only counts in horse shoes” is true. If a shoe is within the width of the shoe on the gap side, it is one point. If it leans against the peg, it is two points. If it completely surrounds the peg, it’s a ringer and the thrower gets three points. The first person to get 21 points wins. Scot wondered why 21 was a winning score in so many games, but never got around to looking it up or asking. The odd number obviously was necessary to avoid ties.
“I’m ready for you now,” Fred challenged after he got a second shoe in the box. Neither fell in the “close” zone. His next four shoes failed to score. Scot threw his shoes with minimum concentration, not wanting to humiliate his friend.
“Your throwing method is highly flawed, I hate to tell you,” Fred told Scot, a hint of mockery in his tone. “You hold the shoe by the right side near the open end, then throw it with a horizontal spin. That means the shoe is open to circle the peg no more than 25% of the time. You’re eliminating 75% of your possible ringers.”
Unlike Fred’s throws, Scot’s spin was horizontal and clockwise. It was a counter intuitive form. That throwing style made a “ringer” unlikely. The rest of the time, even if the throw distance and height were accurate, the shoe would hit the peg with one of the three metal sides and bounce off the peg. That created a huge disadvantage for anyone who used that method. It gulled Fred to no end, since he had never beaten Scot at the game. A slight advantage, Scot claimed, was that the swing took the horseshoe past his leg when the shoe was vertical to the ground. The 90 degree twist of the hand just before the release to change the shoe to the horizontal position merely compensated for that advantage. Scot told Fred and most of his competitors that he used the seemingly awkward form to handicap himself and make the game more equal and interesting. In reality, having the shoe parallel to the body during the swing, allowed the body to stay more erect. That meant less need for compensation and allowed the momentum of the swing to stay aligned directly with the peg.
Fred didn’t buy that argument. He chalked up the losses to more practice and more luck by his opponent.
After three straight losses, Fred called it quits. “I need a glass of water,” he said as an excuse to end the humiliation and frustration.
They returned to the porch to rest, not that the game is that demanding. Fred returned to the chair he previously occupied. Scot went into the house and retuned a couple minutes later with two glasses of water, both half full of ice cubes.
“What’s your secret for playing horse shoes?” Fred asked. He was more than a little annoyed at his humiliating loss.
“I call it the weight instinct,” Scot said in a hushed tone implying it was a closely guarded secret. “You know how you prepare to pick up an object, and when you actually attempt to do it, you find, to your surprise, that it’s much heavier or lighter than you had expected? Your mind calculated the amount of energy needed for the task, but the actual weight was far different. You must reassess the task and reallocate the amount of energy, and usually the angle of the body to get the best leverage. That’s true for sports. Your mind can do the calculation of energy to expend and leverage of the body muscles needed to carry out the task. The secret is to use that mental calculator and let it do the job. The more precise the demand, the more accurate the mental calculator will be. In horseshoes, you concentrate not just on the pole, but on a precise pin point on the pole. Then let the mental calculator do the computations. It takes hundreds if not thousands of practice attempts to fine tune the calculator for that task. Once it is honed precisely, you rarely will miss. Pick a sport and try it.”
“What’s the next big flash point in world affairs?” Scot asked, certain that was the topic uppermost in Fred’s mind and the main reason for his visit.
“I think it will be Indochina,” Fred responded without hesitation, as if he had rehearsed the discussion he wanted to have. “The West can’t allow a victory over one of its members to stand. What if every nation decided it could oppose the European colonial nations? They would demand fair compensation for their resources, and evacuation of the remaining colonies. The West wouldn’t have cheap goods any longer, and poverty would move from the colonies to the colonizers. The newly poor people of the colonizing nations would topple their governments and rulers and replace them with entirely new forms of government, possibly socialist or even communist as happened in Tsarist Russia.”
“I though the Munich Treaty resolved that matter,” Scot said.
“Treaty of Paris,” corrected Fred. “Eisenhower already has violated that agreement. If an election had been allowed, Ho Chi Minh would have won by a landslide. The U.S. can’t allow communists to win elections. That would undermine capitalism if people began to believe there was a better or preferred alternative. So it installs dictatorships but calls them democracies.
”The U.S. is following the same erroneous path it took in Korea. It’s as if Americans are unable to learn from experience. Our leaders keep retuning to the same poisoned well and drinking anew. In Korea, the U.S. went beyond the agreements and placed its own puppets in power in the South. Then it had its puppets refuse to hold elections, exactly as it did later in Vietnam. The result was a brutal war in Korea with over a million dying including over 25,000 Americans. They died for nothing. Our leaders have no concern for the lives of ordinary people, in other nations or their own. One advantage, however, is that the world witnesses that you have mindless citizens who will go and die for no valid reason, for reasons contrary to their own well-being. That alone instils fear in potential competitors or resistors.”
“Are you saying the U.S. Government opposed a democratic election?” Scot asked incredulously with audible irritation and no small amount of scorn. Accusing his nation of anything less than noble intentions annoyed Scot even if it came from a friend, albeit somewhat disturbed and likely misguided friend. He was entertained by Fred’s observations. He never had been able to disprove any of his facts, but he was sure many of the conclusions were wrong. He felt it in his gut.
“The U.S. Government opposes democratic elections here in this country also,” Fred added matter-of-factly. “If the government wants to control another nation, it’s much easier to bribe one dictator than the majority of members of a legislature or parliament. Internationally, we support as many dictatorships as democracies. The Government hates democracy. Always has. The word democracy appears nowhere in the Constitution. Even the Founding Fathers distrusted anyone who was not a white, male landowner to make responsible political decisions such as voting. They believed anarchy would result if all adults could vote. The government we have today could be called an aristocracy, plutocracy, oligarchy, polyarchy, kleptocracy, blachocracy or several other political titles, but it does not meet the definition of democracy.
”Our government’s plan could be called ‘Return to the Plantation.’ It only grudgingly gave up the plantations in the first place. That was out of fear of being the victim of a revolution like those sweeping Europe. After WW II, our secret rulers decided the time was right to reestablish the plantation. People were in shock after two world wars. They were open to change. Propaganda had been refined and perfected. Now they could gift wrap the plantation in new terms and sell it back to the majority of the American people.”
Scot felt anger welling up inside him and momentarily considered asking Fred to leave after that treasonous remark. However, he enjoyed Fred’s ramblings, and wanted to see where his argument was going. Scot concluded that Fred saw things from the perspective of his religion, which detested wars and distrusted governments. He was trying to find faults with both. Scot wasn’t sure exactly what the Jehovah’s Witnesses really stood for. In fact, he wasn’t even sure what they did to survive. Fred’s dad worked at the steel mill, Scot knew, but he had no idea where any of the other Jehovah’s Witnesses’ parents worked. He always thought they roamed from door to door discussing the Bible, or tried to corner someone into a religious discussion, then disappeared for several weeks. He wondered why they didn’t just make cold calls and say something like:
Hello friend. My name is John Baptist. I am calling you because I am concerned that our community is retreating into isolation. I believe we need more social interaction, more events to form a feeling of togetherness. Studies have shown that an interactive community is a healthier community. Just let me know when you have some spare time, and we can get together to discuss our interests, the future, sports, fishing, the Bible, schools, community leaders and whatever else interests you.
It seemed wasteful and inefficient to roam the neighborhood for hours in the hopes of finding someone at home. The tell tale Bible in their hands was a dead giveaway revealing who was at the door. People who were at home might not even be in the mood for a Bible discussion. His parents told him they were unrealistic idealists, and that was good enough for him.
Their fathers had grown up together. Fred’s father served in the army during WW II, so he must have converted sometime after that war. Scot assumed Fred’s mother did all the proselytizing. Perhaps she converted her husband to the religion.
Steel Mill workers were the elite in that area. They looked down on workers of the other industries. Other workers were envious of steel workers although few would admit it. Pottery was the second largest employer. The local politicians claimed the area was the pottery capital of the world. Steel mill support industries such as refractories that made the bricks that could sustain the heat needed to melt steel also were lower-class. The bricks and the pottery came from the same clay but that was too diverse for the brick workers to be accepted as equals by the steel workers. The refractory workers looked down on the pottery workers. The nation may have claimed to be egalitarian, but people were determined to create classes or social substrata.
Scot’s father worked at a refractory most of his life. Locally, it was referred to as “The Brick Yard.” That was the source of the large brick apron/basketball court outside the garage. He had hauled a couple dozen bricks home in the trunk of his car many nights after work for several years until he had enough to build the apron. He paid due deference to his steel worker superiors, most of whom had the same rearing and schooling and were his childhood friends. Many were his relatives. In private, he often mused about a steelworker’s career. He had worked in coal mines, the bottom of the social ladder. Scot remembered seeing his father come home from work late at night with a completely black face. In the morning it would be completely white like the rest of the family. His advancement to the Brick Yard career included higher pay plus a shower at the end of the day. He seemed to value the shower as much as the increased pay.
Scot was four years old the day he saw a real black person for the first time. He, his mother and younger brother were taking a train to grandma’s house when, about half way, the train stopped and several black faced people got on the train. Two of them sat down in the seat behind Scot’s. Scot and his younger brother turned around to ask the new boarders if they were coal miners and reveal to the other passengers how worldly and wise they were that they could identify someone’s occupation. For some unfathomable reason, his mother interrupted that exchange. She assumed her threatening voice which was low and out of the corner of her mouth.
"Turn around!" she commanded. It took four more threats before the boys decided they shouldn't press their luck. They returned to their boring, upright positions on the seat and looked straight ahead.
The black-faced people were smiling from ear to ear and enjoying the banter and confusion of the youngsters. The mother’s attempts at intervention seemed out of line to the boys but was highly entertaining to the new passengers.
“A nobility runs this nation,” Fred continued matter-of-factly. “The government serves the nobility. The government’s primary job is to keep average people frightened, superstitious, ignorant and believing class divisions exist only among the classes below them. Once a person accepts a lower class existence, that opens the door to a class existing above that person. When it comes to great wealth, they’re told there are no class conflicts or clashes. The wealth difference indicates that those who worked the hardest and were the most innovative deserve and get rewarded more. Anyone can attain great wealth and prestige in the United States of America.
“In reality, there’s a need to provoke friction among the lower classes. We have a Constitution, but there’s an unwritten law that trumps all other laws: Corporations are entitled to large profits."
"Look at how far we've progressed from the plantations that dominated the economy in the first century of this nation," Scott pointed out, coming to the defense of his nation. He was making an effort to present himself as aware of the history of the US, even though he hated that subject is school.
Fred looked at Scot. Like almost all of his classmates, he had found his host to be greatly misinformed and, even more, uninformed about his own nation. He decided this is a good opportunity to test his own debating skills.
"Actually plantations enslaved the persons body. The corporations enslaved the person's mind," Fred asserted. "Once you have enslaved a persons mind, you also have enslaved his body. Corporation slavery is far superior in the minds of the ruling class. You don't need to worry about runaway workers. You don't need guards constantly to protect you against worker uprisings. You don't need to attend an auction to buy your workers. They come to you. When a worker becomes unproductive, you don't have any obligation to provide him with care. You just dumped him out into the street. Then you can threaten remaining workers with replacement by one of those living in the streets to get more production out of current workers."
Fred could have made more arguments for the benefit of corporate wage slavery over plantation slave ownership, but he noticed Scot seemed to be puzzled over what he already had heard. Smug in the confidence of his arguments, Fred looked at Scott waiting for his response
That diatribe was counter to everything Scot had been told in school, church and at home. He launched his counteroffensive: “In America, anyone can rise to the top, become rich and accomplish great things including becoming a member of your nobility.”
“Rarely does a poor person succeed,” Fred countered. The wealthy people support each other. Money marries money. A stratified society is as normal as breathing. It’s a natural instinct that is common among animals and insects. That way, the strongest and most adaptable survive. Humans differ in that they are capable of manipulating that instinct. It serves the nobility’s interests for a few lower class people to rise to the top. They can claim there is class mobility when it barely exists in reality.”
Scot thought about Fred’s statements. He wondered where he got all of his information. When he was in elementary school, his parents visited Fred’s parents frequently. Fred’s dad had been a barber at one time and frequently cut the hair of Scot and his brother. They hated getting their hair cut by him because he was very rough. He also was rough when he played with his own kids. He liked to bite their ears until they screamed. Scot wondered if highly religious kids were so humble and obedient to avoid getting their ears bitten by their parents.
Before television ownership became common, visiting other people in their homes was the primary form of entertainment in that community. Scot couldn’t recall a single time that Fred’s parents visited Scot’s parents. Probably they were afraid they would automatically begin proselytizing. Fred’s parents showed no sign of exceptional intelligence. He never saw any books laying around. He could have asked Fred what his source of information was, but he seldom did. Jehovah’s Witnesses found an answer for everything in their Bibles. They considered that the ultimate proof that ended the discussion.
Fred had seemingly unlimited opinions about politics. “Money marries money,” was one of several statements Fred quoted frequently. That statement frequently concluded Fred’s political arguments.
“‘Might makes right’ is the only rule our leaders follow,” Fred said repeating his second most common observation.
Another favorite statement was that “There’s not a dimes worth of difference between the Democrat and Republican Parties. The sole purpose of the Democratic Party is to give the illusion of choice.”
“Both parties believe the majority of Americans are at the mental, moral and maturity level of an infant. Both parties try to keep the people in a state of tension. They’re much easier to control under those circumstances,” Fred claimed. “When threats abound, real or imagined, people desire to band together to form a larger defensive unit. Their mental attitude is no longer self interest. It becomes survival of the herd and sacrifice for the herd. Some psychologists believe we have a herd annihilation fear instinct.
“You can change the puppets, but the puppeteer remains the same,” Fred said about what he believed was the illusion of choice encompassed in the elections where voters had the choice of one of two candidates whose positions were essentially indistinguishable.
“How does your nobility communicate among themselves and give orders to the government?” Scot wondered out loud.
Fred had an immediate, obviously rehearsed response. “They belong to exclusive clubs and they take high level jobs in the government such as secretary of a branch or head of an agency. They vacation together at exclusive resorts like Bohemian Grove outside San Francisco. They marry each other. They own the media and communications networks. They can get any message out immediately among themselves or to the masses. By controlling the media, they also can suppress any information they don’t want disseminated. They sincerely believe that they are helping people by protecting them from unfavorable or unpleasant information.”
“What about capitalism?” Scot asked. “You can’t dispute that it is the best economic system the world has ever known. It is self-policing. It helps keep the government honest by keeping the government out of most of our economic affairs. The consumer, the people, decide which businesses will survive. There can be nothing more democratic than that.”
Fred had been staring off toward the wooded hills in the southeast. Actually, hills surrounded the entire area. The southern areas mostly were natural tree and vegetation growth, while the rest was cleared farmland with little oases of trees and natural vegetation. He glanced toward Scot with a barely concealed expression of exasperation on his face as if Scot had claimed the earth was flat. “Capitalism is a primitive predator-prey structure,” he asserted. “A few carnivores feed on many herbivores. Like the dinosaurs, the predators get larger and larger. They will grow until they consume and devour their food source. Then they will slowly die off leaving a carcass-covered landscape. The most ironic and impressive quality of capitalism is that the prey have been tricked into believing they need the predators, that their survival depends on the survival of those predators.
“Capitalism is a faith-based economic system. Its practitioners believe in a spirit called the 'invisible hand of the marketplace.' The invisible hand, your self-regulating theory, regulates the market, punishes excesses and eliminates the inefficient--in theory. In reality, it doesn’t regulate the market. It doesn’t punish greed or gluttony. It doesn’t reward the competent and efficient. It doesn’t exist. What exists is a primitive system that apes feudalism. It rewards the few and preys on the masses. It abides by the law of the jungle, not the invisible hand of the marketplace.
“I believe our predatory rulers are in for some rough times. The vilification of the Nazis and their allies has been so incessant, our leaders will be forced to account for some of their past barbaric Nazi actions discrediting themselves in the process,” Fred speculated.
“What are you talking about?” Scot challenged. “We have always done the right thing, or at least, attempted to do the right thing. Sometimes the best intentions get derailed by unforeseen circumstances. We are the most noble nation that ever existed. How can you compare us to the Nazis in any way?”
“The United States has a long history of racism, injustice and cruelty,” Fred pointed out. “It murdered 10 to 17 million Native Americans and took their land. It lynched over 5,000 Negroes, many of whom had been horribly tortured. Not a single person was punished for any of those lynchings. The U.S. had an eugenics program from 1890 to 1920 with the goal of purifying the white race. The hypocrisy undermines the claim of ‘American exceptionalism.’ Sooner or later, people will begin challenging the system and doubt the statements and veracity of their leaders.
“It’s difficult for people to see or acknowledge their own faults, and easy to see those of others,” Fred continued. “Why were the German people unable to see the glaring evil in Hitler and his cohorts? People naturally go into denial about faults of their own friends, families, tribes and nations. The Chinese proverb says: ‘We judge others by their acts. We judge ourselves by our intentions.’”
Then, for the first time in their discussions, Fred quoted the Bible. “Jesus said ‘the hypocrite can see the splinter in his neighbors eye, but can’t see the beam in his own eye.’ Our rulers take advantage of that natural inclination to get us to commit horrible crimes and atrocities. We murdered over 1 1/2 million people during the Spanish-American War with extreme brutality. The basis for that war was fraudulent. Yet most of us don’t know we did anything evil or unlawful. Most of us don’t even know that we did anything wrong. Most Americans don’t know there was a Spanish-American War. Yet we self-righteously accuse the Nazis of being inherently evil even though they committed no crime that our nation hasn’t perpetrated. The only difference, it can be argued, was in scale. In fact, the U.S. is one up on the Nazis. It’s the only nation ever to incinerate hundreds of thousands of people with nuclear weapons.”
“Is there ANYTHING positive about this nation in your opinion?” Scot asked with strong emphasis on anything. The challenge should reveal Fred’s resolute, unfounded prejudice against his own nation.
“Sure.” Fred responded without deliberation. “There are a few actually. The one thing that stands out most is that the U.S. was the first nation to make a Constitution the supreme ruler. There have been limited monarchies going back three thousand years to Hammurabi’s Code. England had the Magna Carta. But they shared power with a human ruler. The unfortunate situation in the United States is that the people still are monarchists. Only a very small percentage, probably no more than 10%, are sufficiently enlightened to function in a constitutional democracy. Even the Founding Fathers believed this.”
Fred always said the primary objective of the Republican party is to keep capitalism alive no matter how much the life support costs, because capitalism facilitates Feudalism. Unenlightened people instinctively are comfortable with a Feudal social, political and economic structure. Scot had no idea what Fred was talking about, so he nodded in agreement.
“Ever notice how close votes are on domestic policies, no natter who controls the government, or how great their majority is?” Fred asked. “That’s because our politicians represent the nobility which preys on the peasantry. The politicians count the votes to see what it will take to get an outcome that favors their goals. If the party votes are leaning against the interests of the nobility, then they use their wealth and influence to get a few votes, whatever number needed, to switch their positions to insure the vote goes for the nobility. The losing peasants see the procedure and believe it is working for them but closely failed this time.
“The nobility determines which constituencies can be duped most easily. It’s their representatives they urge to vote for the interests of the rulers. Their constituencies lack the political or economic sophistication to figure out that their interests have been compromised. Unfortunately, most districts fell into that category. The voters must become far more politically educated before true democracy has a chance of flowering in the U.S. The Founding Fathers calculated that the average American lacked the political awareness to run a nation responsibly. That’s why they added the Electoral College, for example. They were and are correct.”
“But we have two parties,” Scot interjected. “They watch each other and keep each other honest.”
Fred responded: “The Democrats appear to be an indecisive, dysfunctional party. Whether or not they are remains to be seen. I suspect they are playing the role of Poncho in the Cisco Kid Western series, or Jerry Lewis in the Martin and Lewis comedy entertainment team.
“Probably the best analogy for Democrats and Republicans would be Sancho Panza and Don Quixote in the classic novel by Cervantes. One is delusional. The other follows orders without question. Both can be manipulated and bribed easily. Both have too many frailties to be functioning independently and freely. The Republicans certainly share the bluster, hubris and reactionary instincts of Don Quixote. Democrats have the memorized metaphors of Sancho Panza without the wisdom to understand them.
Over Fred’s right shoulder, Scot saw an old man materialize from behind the east side of the house. He was heavy. He had a makeshift wooden cane that provided balance on the uneven terrain.
Fred noticed Scot stop talking and stare. Then the old man walked slowly into his plane of view. The old man wore bib overalls and a matching denim jacket. There was something in every pocket of the bib overalls including a pipe, cigarettes and a pencil. A cloth loop on the left hip of the overalls, intended to hold a hammer, seemed to be the only part of the functional attire that was unused.
The old man stared at Fred and Scot. He moved closer and squinted to detect features that might identify the people staring back at him. Failing to do that, he yelled “Hey Mel” in a loud voice. The volume of the call and the raspy sound that emitted from the old man surprised and startled Fred and Scot. The old man waited a respectable time, about 10 seconds, then repeated the call with a little more volume. Another 10 seconds passed, and he repeated the call again. After a couple more attempts, Scot addressed him.
“Are you looking for my dad?” he asked formulating the obvious question.
The old man looked puzzled, but at least he stopped the irritating yelling. “Are you Mel’s boys?” he asked looking first at one of them, then the other. Considering that Fred and Scot were exact opposites in every feature, it was not a well thought out question.
“I am,” Scot responded raising his hand in case the old man’s hearing was not adequate to identify the speaker.
“Where’s your dad?” he said abruptly, almost demandingly, as if he were a person of authority.
“I’ll go get him,” Scot said rising and walking toward the door. He could have done that immediately upon seeing the old man. Scot knew who he was and what he wanted, but some demon inside him urged him to torment the unfortunate soul for a few minutes.
The old man, who was known as “the professor,” sat down on the third step. It was the easiest for his brittle body to reach, and he could balance himself there with his wooden cane while resting his right foot on the first step. He remained silent and ignored a greeting from Fred.
About ten minutes later, Scot and his father emerged from the house. Scot’s father sat down on the other side of the steps, fully aware that the Professor couldn’t or wouldn’t climb up to the porch.
“Going to Hammondsville today?” the Professor asked, getting straight to the point.
“In a couple minutes,” Mel responded. He got up and went back into the house.
Mel always said that whether or not he intended to go to Hammondsville. The Professor lived along that route, and wanted a ride home. He had to walk everywhere except where he could beg a ride, and Mel’s house was an exhaustion point in his travels. If Mel wasn’t there, he asked for a drink of water, rested for about a half hour then trudged on to his destination.
A couple minutes later, Scot’s father reemerged from the house and slowly led the Professor up the long sidewalk to the garage. They disappeared behind the garage, and after what seemed to be an interminable time, drove away.
“Who was that?” Fred asked.
“You don’t know the world’s foremost expert on Out Houses?” Scot responded as if he had discovered the one thing Fred didn’t know. “Allegedly he knows everything there is to know about Out Houses. He knows the ideal locations to prevent contamination of water supplies, the soil content that will best process human waste and the optimal depth to dig the pit. He takes several hours to study all of the variables. If you ever find human waste contaminating your drinking water, you will pay a steep price for not having sought out the Professor’s expert advice.
“The most perfect Out House, he claims, is one that is ten feet from the seats to the bottom of the pit. When he is finished with his evaluation, he calls the whole family together to receive his announcement. Its the next best thing to Christmas Eve. The family members wait in anticipation. ‘Out House 10!‘ he proclaims on the rare occasions that a family receives the gift of the perfect Outhouse rating. ‘This is man and nature working in perfect harmony’ he claims. On these occasions, there is a mandatory Bar-B-Q the following weekend. The Professor is the guest of honor.
“He’s a sad, broken man today. There still are a few homes with Out Houses, but the little building is more a symbol of primitive living than a solitary retreat for comfort, reading and relief. Going from all that adulation and admiration to near anonymity took its toll on him.”
“What’s his degree in?” Fred asked. “Chemistry? Architecture?”
“Very funny,” Scot responded. “Actually, I heard he never went past the fifth grade. He seems to have had a natural degree in several fields.”
“Did he make your Out House location evaluation?” Fred asked.
“We had two during the first few years we lived here,” Scot responded. "He didn’t do the first one, to our misfortune,” Scot said with an overtone of great tragedy. “Of course my parents had no idea he existed, or that anyone with that talent existed. People got all their information from relatives, neighbors, co-workers. Or they learned from their mistakes. In our case, the township decided to test all the water wells. Ours showed a contamination level slightly above the accepted number. My father thought we could live with it. My mother didn’t. We had to wait awhile to get an estimate by the Professor.
“The Out House location event was interesting. The weather had to be just right. The Professor arrived with his assistant. The Professor looked around in every direction. Finally, he laid down on the ground with his right ear on the dirt. He claimed a species could survive only if it learned to communicate and live in harmony with the earth. Each species must marry the earth, he claimed. There is dirt on top and usually water at one or more levels. In between, there can be rocks, coal, limestone, sand and many other materials. He kicked the ground periodically with the point his toe as he rotated clockwise around the point where his ear pivoted. That sent sounds, like sonar, into the ground and back that an expert person could hear and interpret the mineral and water consistencies and quantities. He had learned to listen to the earth to find out what was there and how it would best serve the landowner, and the landowner could help the earth in return. He swiveled around very slowly. He would say ‘ah hum’ and the assistant would write down something. Then he would turn a bit farther, stop and again say ‘ah hum’. The assistant made another note. Then the Professor got up, surveyed the landscape and slinked down prone on the ground again. He went through the ritual at three different locations. Then he went to the highest point on the property and turned 360 degrees, swiveling on his heels this time. He did the same for the lowest point. He surveyed all the neighboring properties, hesitating at some points while quickly passing others. Then he gave a thumbs up signal to his assistant. Everyone gathered together.”
“Looks promising,” the professor announced, if you were lucky. “I just need to make a couple measurements to get the precise location.”
“Can I get a job writing down ah hums,” young Scot asked the professor, recognizing a great career opportunity when he saw it.
“I can give you the employment test right now,” the Professor responded. He winked at Scot’s father. He handed his assistant’s clipboard to Scot with a clean sheet of paper. When Scot had the clip board and pencil firmly in hand, the Professor said "ah hum" three times.
“Now write down what I said,” the Professor instructed.
When Scot had finished writing, the Professor retrieved his clipboard and found what he expected. “I’m afraid you failed the test,” the Professor said. “What I said was: ‘moderate, positive incline at 170 degrees.’ You needed to watch which way I am facing, then listen for the stress on the ah or hum and listen for a long or short syllable.”
The Professor watched the young boy’s completely puzzled expression as Scot remained speechless for several minutes. The Professor enjoyed teaching people that his job was not as simple as it appeared.
“Your Out House is over 50 yards from the house,” Fred noted. “What did you do on a freezing day? What if it snowed several feed deep?”
“You learned to hold off bathroom trips,” Scot replied. “If you were lucky enough to be a boy, you just came out on the porch and urinated off the edge. We did that when it was nighttime also, even if it was the middle of summer. Sometimes our young female cousins joined us in that ritual. That seems strange to me now. It never occurred to me back then that that would be socially unacceptable.”
“I read a book about India that described porches having holes cut in the floor which served as toilets,” Fred interjected. “Pigs would get very excited about the event and gobble up any excrement. That’s probably why people in that area don’t eat pork. Sounds like a perfect cycle of nature doesn’t it.”
Fred looked at his watch. He marveled at the degree to which people were ill-informed. However, he enjoyed enlightening people with the information he culled from numerous hours of reading. Very few people read books. Only a small fraction of them read monographs. His religious requirement for proselytizing somehow got diverted to the library. Fortunately, the largess of Andrew Carnegie had established a library in their small town.
Hours of discussions helped hone his skills for convincing others of reality. He rarely broke his rule never to mention the Bible outside Kingdom Hall. Sometimes, however, the best analogy was found only in the Bible. He had seen too many people look up in horror, turn and scamper away when they recognized his parents or other Witness members.
“I better go or I’ll be late for supper,” Fred said. He rose, stretched, waved in a backhand way and walked toward his car.
“Ya-all come back,” Scot said, in the obligatory vernacular farewell phrase of hosts in that region.
As Fred’s car door slammed shut, the house door opened and Scot’s mother stuck her head out. “I heard some of what he was saying. Don’t believe it. It’s not true. It’s just some of the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ nonsense.” Her tone was ominous in that warning inflection that children internalize to form their first set of moral guidelines for what is right and wrong.
Scot’s mother was a proud Republican. She always served as a Republican election judge. Scot realized years later that she really didn’t understand what a Republican was. She always said the Republicans preferred and represented rich people. She seemed to think that if she told people she was a Republican, everyone would think she was rich. If they were rich, they had it all hidden somewhere. The house and car did not attest to the abode and transportation of wealthy people. His father always had laboring jobs that paid low wages. He raised animals and planted a huge garden to supplement the moderate wages he was paid, or just to keep up perhaps. Finances were never discussed around the children. His mother never worked outside the home. Mothers did not work, as a rule. For his father, it was a law. Scot was sure his father voted for the Democrats most of the time, but in the interest of household harmony, didn’t discuss elections or politics. That was forbidden socially in that community. Only Fred did not abide by those rules, as far as Scot knew.
Scot’s aunt once confided to him that his mother always believed as a youth that since she was beautiful, the prettiest of six attractive girls, she was destined to attract and marry a very successful, wealthy man and mix in the highest circles of society. Her future husband was dashing, handsome and highly popular. He also was not wealthy and had little potential to be rich. His father made his sons drop out of school after the eighth grade and go to work. When they got their paychecks, they signed them over to their father. His laboring job provided an adequate income for a single man or a husband and wife, but not for a large family. Apparently the thrill of the chase for the most eligible bachelor in the community, one that had a car, distracted her from her long-range goals. Plus, since women didn’t work, it was urgent that they find a husband as soon as possible.
Scot had no idea what “high circles” were, and dismissed the conversation. Lately, he had recalled the discussion and started to wonder what it all meant.