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Monday, March 4, 2013


 gettin er done

Saw the race yesterday with three friends. It's fun to drive someplace on Sunday afternoon and see a half dozen pickups parked at a house or a trailer, knowing the guys inside are having a good time big-dogging, drinking beer, eating "wings" and pizza, exclaiming, cussing, guys together feeling like the times when they were in high school before full-time job, full-time wife, full-time kids and full-time payments. Watching the race on Sunday after the bow tournaments feels like freedom a little bit, enough to have value, to make it a big moment of the week. It's a big deal for me and I don't even have all those bills and bow tournaments. I like getting with people I like and watching a race. We all four enjoy the race. I like it that I can ask any question about racing subtleties and somebody will know the answer. None of these guys did so hot in school, but when it comes to races they could all get As on tests. They wouldn't even have to cram for the exam. I can't say because I've had more schooling than they had that I'm smarter than them. They're the ones answering my questions, not the other way around.

It has been a narrow line for me to walk, having more education than most of the people I know and spend time with. From my way of seeing, it just means I've taken more tests than they have, and that alone. I can't do just about everything they can do, like shoot a buck with an arrow so it drops the moment it's hit, nor can I cut one open and skin it, nor can I race at night on mountain roads, nor can I build a house or take a motor apart and put it back together. I'm impressed by much that my friends can do. About all I can do they're impressed by is read books. And that's not too impressive. I did kind of blow their minds the other day when two of them came into my house and said, "Whacha doin?" and I said, "Writing about French poetry before WW1." They double-took on that. It's a part of me that none of my friends here can fathom. I miss having friends I can talk about such subjects with, but would not want to live in a world exclusively of people I could talk academically with. For people I know in an everyday life kind of way, I'll take hillbillies. They don't read, but that makes their knowledge first-hand, experiential.

I appreciate experience as it is billed, the best teacher. I too, can drive a tractor, mow hay, make a chainsaw buzz, work all day for years making minimum wage. I did turn myself over to living as the working poor in a place where more people are looking for work than there is work to be had. I did that because I wanted to share the everyday life fate of working class people. I could not aspire to a desk in an office with my name on the door making unconscionable amounts of money literally on the backs of the working poor. I could not feel fulfilled within seeing such a great difference between my privilege and their actual misfortune of living in an economy that does not appreciate the worker, yet amasses fortunes from their labor while they live in poverty. I respect and appreciate the working people, especially because I know what their lives are like from sharing their experience. I know the experience of working all the time, seeing no end to it, questioning the value of it, seeing self in an endless struggle in what turns out to be a long cave, not a tunnel. Employers don't understand this hopelessness in their employees. They just complain because the help doesn't turn up for work most Mondays.

I think of myself politically a socialist, though when I go to socialist websites and read socialist writings, I say, No, I'm not that. I recall a time I walked by an office of Amnesty International that had glass walls. I had been interested in AI, had sent them a little bit of money in the past, especially appreciate what they do, but when I saw some of the people, they had a serious demeanor that made me say to myself, I'm not that. I like the relaxed European forms of socialism, like Sweden and Finland. I must remind myself these are countries with only one major city, maybe two, and sometimes 3. I can't number the American major cities, which I take to mean USA has numberless problems in relation to European countries. I'd be willing to pay more taxes when a whole lot less goes to military. I'm glad to pay when the tax money goes to the well-being of the American people, even the freeloaders enabled by welfare. The real freeloaders are living in the most expensive parts of the city, their drivers driving BMW sedans. They're heading international corporations that are bleeding the American working people of a livelihood, of a life, and golfing at the Cayman Islands Country Club for American tax dodgers with yachts.

Ethically, I'm with the working people. Maybe it comes under the question of whether I'd rather kill or be killed. The Masters recommend being killed is better. Ego says to kill is better, that is, in a case of self-defense. I'd have a hard time not killing somebody in self-defense. I don't know if my ethical ideals could kick in fast enough to give pause to an instinct of self-preservation. Ethically, I say it is better to be killed than to kill. Where karma is concerned, if I kill, then I will have to be killed somewhere along the way, this lifetime or next. Why set that up? Just go ahead and be killed and be done with it. But I'm not so sure about any of that. If somebody were to hurt my baby Vada really bad, give me a machete. I'd want it up close and personal. I'd want to reach out and touch someone, something you could not hear a mile away, blood I'd have to wash off. That kind of came to nothing. What I'm getting at is I could not feel comfortable in myself, as myself, with privileges and looked up to by the working poor, who are poor because of the system that benefited me. I couldn't live like that. I want to live among the working people as one of them. I can't do anything to change their political condition or make minimum wage a livable wage. I'd rather live in the community of the working poor than isolated in a country club with a gated address. Among the working people is where I find what I call the real. Ralph Stanley for one.

I prefer the company of people who work labor jobs to that of people with management jobs and executive jobs. I want to live as the people I most appreciate live. I most appreciate the people who work hard all the time without hope of things getting better, seeing things only get worse. They're the people with guts. Independence lawyer Lorne Campbell told me the only man he respects is the man who will not rat. He said it is a rare individual, indeed. Campbell, himself, was known as one who did not rat. He even did six months in Wilkes jail around 1930, sentenced for not ratting as the court demanded. As a lawyer, he knows. He liked the old-time mountain people. He respected the old liquor-making men who would go to prison before they would rat on somebody. My bluegrass singing friend Katy Taylor told me her grandpa went to prison for two years because he'd let a friend put a still on his land and wouldn't tell who it was, let it be believed it was his still. That's the kind of man Lorne Campbell respected. Junior Maxwell was such a man. Junior wouldn't rat on somebody if you pulled all his fingernails out. Anybody that knew him would affirm that statement. I like living in a world where this kind of trust is honored. I like living in a world where a man's character is all the business card he needs.


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