I live in a small Wyoming town, pop. 3200, that gets its local news from the weekly paper, a journalistic example of “how to be non-committal as an editor”. Those old Western movies about the Crusading Gazettes are long gone; it appears that one must avoid antagonizing anyone by taking a stand on an issue, thus assuring a continued small world of tranquility amid the turmoil of the “outside”. It is left to those brave souls who contribute their perspectives to the “Letters to the Editor”, or to Guest Columnis, to raise the ire of portions of the local community.

I bring this up because, in the edition following the November election, one of my long-time friends had submitted a letter questioning how anyone could even minimally think of voting for the Obama administration or candidates of the party it represents. This particular individual, through hard work and having taken a big risk at one point in his career as a petroleum engineer, had become highly comfortable financially and continues, along with his now significantly-expanded family, to enjoy many of the benefits of modern life in spite of his 80+ years and health issues. His money comes from ownership of the mineral rights to a small oilfield, one that has been producing since the early part of the last century and continues to do so. Its rewards naturally are subject to the whims of the economy along with the demand for its product. Although I did not read his original letter I did read two responses to it that were somewhat unusual to see in this strong Republican stronghold.

Those responses started me into my analytical mode; I was starting to reflect on how the original letter writer had come to represent that viewpoint, and then further I considered the persons who had written the responses (of course, in a town our size we usually know “everyone”). While in the midst of massaging these thoughts, I did some volunteer work with a partner during the Grand Opening of the Wyoming Whiskey Distillery, and at some point toward the end of the long day, perhaps from fatigue or loss of focus, he began to rant about the Obama administration and said that “he is the worst President we’ve ever had, and I’m tired of paying for that 30% of the population that’s feasting off of our money.” Earlier in the day, he had indicated that at one point in his career, he had taught Human Resources classes at San Diego State, supposedly a representation that a glimmer of intelligence lurked somewhere in his conscious state (I don’t know how conscious he was, he had been drinking beer throughout the afternoon and when he had the opportunity, eagerly participated in tasting some of the product that we were packaging for equally eager buyers).

Suddenly, as I was thinking of a response to his statement, everything seemed to come clear in the sense that I now had a foundation of understanding. It was encapsulated in my reply; “I don’t agree at all with you, but what you stated is just your opinion. Opinions are based on a person’s experiences and hopefully on sound facts; I have had a quite different body of experience than you, and I know that some of your “facts” are inaccurate”. That seemed to quiet him down and we were able to carry on our assigned tasks in semi-peaceful harmony although he did leave early in order to attend a whiskey sampling session at a local liquor store and bar.

But now I felt that I can understand; the owner of the oil field has never had to cope with working with persons drenched in poverty and dysfunctionality; my volunteer partner can’t equate the massive subsidies we give to the profit-making oil companies with what he terms “handouts” to the impoverished. Another of my Republican friends owns a large engineering company that designs and builds coal-fired power plants all over the U.S.; he likewise has always dealt with “things” rather than people. Yes, each of them has had a set of experiences that differ significantly from mine, rooted in social interactions of education and public service. And each of them interprets any proposals having the intent of improving the Quality of Life for all of us, as attempts to limit their personal freedoms and benefits.

Yes, I understand that restrictions on the mineral industry, Wyoming’s primary source of revenue, can increase costs and may in fact cost some jobs, but for the greater good. If my power plant friend had taken my suggestion of 20 years ago to begin looking at alternative methods to provide energy, perhaps he would be expanding his operation into new areas rather than trying to protect it from further regulation. Many persons of this perspective don’t want to accept the facts of Global Warming; to deal with its effects will cut into their profits as existing industries and resources come under the scrutiny of the scientific and regulatory community in their attempts to Save the Planet.

Again, I emphasize that all of these decisions are based on opinions, a few of which are based on facts but more often on weakly-tendered other opinions such as those regularly emitting from right-wing media like Fox News, or the numerous mean-spirited talk show hosts.

However, I can take some solace from the fact that the Ultimate Opinion is that vote one puts in the ballot box; it also is the result of an individual’s experience and interpretation of facts. I am pleased that there appears to be more of the thoughtful folks than the ones still hiding their heads in the sand.

Always Be Happy and Content!       To Our Youth!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: