Talking politics with strangers

Travel presents an ideal laboratory for viewing the perspective of the public at large. On a recent trip to Washington, D.C. I had a brief conversation with the man sitting next to me on the plane as we flew by the Washington Monument and the beauty of the reflecting pool. The man was an architect for a large firm that does work on buildings and associations of which we are all familiar. I told him I was in town for a conference called Defending the American Dream, and here is where the laboratory was revealed.

When we use phrases such as "the American Dream," "preserving the American way of life" and "protecting the future for our children," we must understand that the ideological war has been busy since Rules for Radicals came on the scene. These phrases are being dehydrated of their meaning. Refreshing them is the front line in our effort to right our ship of state, because the man sitting next to me asked, "So what do you believe?" The ideological war has been so successful that the phrase "Defending the American Dream" didn't make sense to him. Therefore, I gave a 30 second "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" lesson, to which his reply was, "So what do you think about Health Care Reform?"

"Well, we don't think what Congress is doing is reform," I answered, and rattled off maybe six ideas of true reform. This is where the communication break became clear, because his response was, "Well, I think we need to have a debate about ideas. People are thinking crazy things, like there are death panels in the bill." The off-loading tunnel was hooking up to the plane, so I had to be quick. "Wait a minute," I said, holding out my hands in a pie shape. "If you have a budget pie, there are going to be cost saving measures taken. That's a given. What we are saying is get rid of the whole pie mentality. Let everyone purchase the insurance policy that's right for them. Why have the government force me to have maternity insurance when I can't have children? And what's the first thing you do when your car's value drops below what you could collect from insurance if it's wrecked? You call your insurance guy and cancel full coverage because that saves you money. And, do you really need hair transplant coverage?"

"We want you to be able to be as prosperous as you can be, and then support the charities of your choice for those in need." The man paused. Then he smiled genuinely, understanding my point. Our now-productive conversation finished with him uttering a simple "Thank you."

What I learned from this encounter was that we cannot expect to be understood by communicating in phrases that have been drained of meaning. We are living in an age of  shifting, dried out definitions, making informational communication difficult. When the man said we need to have a debate after I had already listed numerous examples of reform, the former teacher in me quickly grasped the failure to communicate. His brain responded with the MSM fashionable soundbite because he had no response to actual ideas of true reform. His political complacency had dulled his cognitive skills. However, the visual budget pie I made with my hands revived his understanding. It was clear when viewing this that someone else was going to be making decisions about his life. The illustration was undeniable.

What we on the Right perceive as understandable phrases are being parched out of the national understanding. This is not to say that true Americanism has been totally erased from everyday living, but the culture of nihilism has been busy trying to obliterate these icons as surely as a school kid filling in the O's on his school book cover, then later blocking out the entire word in an ink void. We must provide an environment that refreshes our thirsty ideals. 

Later, in the hotel elevator, a young security guard asked me if I was enjoying my stay. I told him I was having a wonderful time and was here at a conference about Defending the American Dream. I asked him if he knew what the American Dream was, and he said, "No," with that schoolboy tentativeness suggesting fear of giving the wrong answer. "Ah," I said with engaging teacher compassion, "you've got to know about the American Dream. Life, liberty, and the..." and he chimes in, eyes glowing, "pursuit of happiness!" The truth was now feeding his soul and I could tell he was soaking it all in. He stepped out of the elevator to continue the conversation, and I began to remind him of how the American Dream comprises so much of what gives life meaning. "To be the best you can be..." he adds, "to love my family and to provide for them." His roots were now drinking freely in the truth that causes buds and blossoms to sprout. He understood the Dream.

Then I hit him with the hard reality. What Congress and the Obama administration are doing is burning out the Dream, selling his precious children into slavery. "How long would you have to work to pay off a 30 or 40 thousand dollar debt? And that's just right now, today. The government is still out there saying they want to pay for our health care! How can they pay when they don't have any money? That's what I call selling our children into slavery. And why? Because 'we want'? Because we want right now, we sell our children into slavery?"

The lesson only needed a conclusion. "The only party offering any hope in preserving the American Dream is the Republican Party. Remember that when you vote. And do vote! Vote to protect your family and your own American Dream." "I will, I will..." he said, a stronger husband and father, and a better man.

This is the project before each of us at the grassroots level. Many people around us are not indignant that the Dream has gone dormant. So we must find each individual where they are and refresh the Dream in them. We must water this grassland. All that's needed is a life-giving shower to reawaken the roots of the Dream in most people. The Dream feeds the soul. Meeting with like-minded folks, such as at Tea Party events, strengthens our resolve to help our neighbors understand. Doing this will invigorate the vote in 2010, 2012, and beyond. Like irrigation on dry plains, it will be part of changing the future of our country, and it will give hope to future generations. 

Living in Texas through a hot dry summer, I see the magical greening of the grassland pastures when a late summer rain blesses the land. It reminds me that we have the water to nourish the American Dream. And so, we must water the grassland of America in the truth of the Dream in the way each person can understand. If we all do this, we can, as a country, shift from defending the Dream back to growing the Dream. Let's resolve to do this, together.