I have to confess...I missed all the excitement. But now that I've had a chance to think about it a little, it appears to me we all missed the point. More after we decipher this orange Rohrschach test.
Remember back in the day, way back when, in the old times, when the President either was or wasn't taken out of context proclaiming to business people, "You didn't build that"? I don't really. I heard it; I kinda followed it at a distance. But I was busy. I was in the middle of trying to get a part time job.
Yes, dear friends, after 30 years of following my chosen, fairly respectable profession, I have had to seek other gainful employment. As a result, I now spend several hours a week (never as much as I'd like) getting paid minimum wage (not as much as I'd like) to go back to the bottom of the heap and do some basic grunt work.
And you know what? It's kind of been fun! --Mind you, if this was my only employment, and if my spouse didn't have a good job with good benefits, it might not be so appealing. But the job gets me out of the house, interacting with fellow workers, interacting with the public, and it does put a little bit of extra money in the bank account. (And, after a year, they were the only ones that gave me an interview.) And surprise! I like the people I work with! They're mostly fresh, new adults. They are gonna go places. They are dreaming dreams. And while they get bored or frustrated sometimes at work, they are not lazy. Not even the supervisors. Everyone I've seen works hard. Not always smart, but hard. The business putters along because of the work all these people do.
I was told it would be otherwise. If not, then why were they only worth $7.25/hr.? Couldn't they have better, bigger ambitions? Couldn't they make something new? Build their own business? But not everyone can, so for them this will likely be the first in a long series of jobs that, over the years, might come to $8 an hour, if they're lucky. Some will finish school; some will get out and do something seemingly more important. Some may even move up in the organization. But many, many will not--and they're aware of it. It's the source of some of their frustration. (In fact, most are surprised to find that I'm back at the bottom again. That's a little discouraging to them!) And still, they work and they work hard. Some of them work 15 hours, others 20, a few as many as 25 hours a week. Nobody works much more because the company won't hire them to do it. But they come and they work HARD. I come home tired after working with them.
So finally, I had to ask: "What was that I heard about the President and the President wannabe? Something about 'not building that'?" I finally had it explained, and I think I've got it. The President was really talking about infrastructure and community, and he WAS taken out of context. The Wannabe was really talking about independent and creative business people and--let me be honest here--while the President was taken out of context, he DID put it ineptly and in a way easily made into fodder. So I'm not surprised that genuinely creative business people were incensed.
But I have a little different perspective now that I didn't have even a month ago. We're missing a big point, nearly all of us.
Sure, someone has an idea and (if they're fortunate) access to funds, and they make a business. As long as it's not something destructive like the cocaine business or credit default swaps (yes, I went there), I've not got a problem with that. And sure, the government does put together the infrastructure that makes so much of business far more efficient and effective (not to mention the rest of life).
But who really did build that?
Sure, the corporate founders put together and ran the business for which I work. But if we say they BUILT that--and then stop--we're missing a bigger picture, one which includes hundreds of thousands of individuals over the years who put a lot of effort and sweat and occasionally tears into that business.
And sure, the government put together a lot of infrastructure and services that support the community, including the business community. But those roads got built and those wires got strung by the hands of people who worked hard at what they did. (For years now, I've heard that government workers don't work--and folk point to the WPA guys leaning on their shovels as the prime example. But I've sat on an entire concrete picnic area where each table bears the WPA imprint and I wonder--Then who built that?)
So much of what I own was shaped or screwed or sewn or sanded by many pairs of hands. Even if a computer took over much of the manufacture, virtually EVERYTHING I own came off a truck somewhere along the line, and I'll guarantee you that human hands were involved in a lot of places along that route. And they weren't paid very much. But they worked hard to get you what you have. No matter how hard you claim to have worked so you could buy it, they worked harder to get it to you.
Several years ago, a friend of mine was visiting Monticello, Jefferson's dream made a reality. As he stood there listening to a docent explain how Mr. J. had built this magnificent place, he heard a voice behind him say, "See that? Our people built that." My friend turned and saw a black man talking to his daughter. My friend turned back and saw the whole place with different eyes.
Mr. R., Mr. O., everyone, I've got to urge you to look with different eyes. This is way too important to forget.