Stu News and Photos

My name is Stu and I am here to share what I can.

I was at the vet this morning, and at the end of the visit, while paying my bill, I used my bank card. As is the usual with businesses, they presented me the ubiquitous choice: Credit or Debit? I requested Debit, and as I did, I mentioned the reason why, that I had read somewhere that one simple way us regular folks could help the economy get back on its feet was to stop using the credit option on our bank cards when we make small purchases at small businesses.

Small businesses who are the sellers in a credit card transaction pay a fee to the credit card company. These fees stack up, eating into the business's profit margin. If we, the consumer, use the debit side of our card when we buy groceries or socks or pruning shears, it costs us an extra buck or so, which is easier for us to swallow in the long run. Small businesses, especially during this rough economic period, are precariously balanced on the line between success and failure. Anything we can do to help them share the collective cost of doing business keeps our respective neighborhoods in balance.

As I made that point, I jokingly added: "Well, what are you gonna do, I'm a Socialist."

Now, I'm not really a Socialist (not that there's anything wrong with that), and most folks know that about me, including the folks at the vet's office (They know I'm a devout Democrat). But... the customer next to me didn't know I was kidding.

She turned slightly, and gently, towards me and smiled a wee bit and half-whispered: "So, you're a Socialist?"


I mean that sincerely. It was one of those moments I cherish, an opportunity to have a sincere and frank discussion with another adult about something of a more complex nature.

So I turn to her and I explain myself, that while I'm not really a Socialist, that I do see the benefit/importance of thinking and acting with an eye towards social responsibility. I respect Democracy, it's the best any society can do given our current understanding of the varied forms of government, that I cherish our republic (We're not really a democracy, we don't make the laws, we're a republic, we elect the people who make the laws). But I was quick to mention Winston Churchill, who said that democracy was the worst form of government, except for all the others.

She blinked. She paused. She said, "Well, I don't trust Socialism. I'm afraid we're going to become Socialists."

I mentioned that while I didn't think a full-on socialist state could function well in any place, that I would never want to see our country go all-the-way Socialist, we would be remiss if we did not acknowledge the established American socialist aspect of our government: Medicare, Social Security, Veterans benefits, and others. They all are, fundamentally, socialist in nature. And they are clearly successful. They're not perfect, but ask a veteran about their actual experience with getting taxpayer-provided healthcare. Most polls show that veterans maintain a high satisfaction rate, compared with folks who get for-profit medical care.

And other countries who have fully-funded "socialized medicine" also maintain very high patient satisfaction rates. 88% of the folks in Finland report being at least somewhat satisfied with their taxpayer-funded medical care.

I said most of this to my new acquaintance at the vet, lastly mentioning that while I wasn't pushing for a fully funded program, that I thought it was morally imperative to provide a government program that provided basic healthcare for children and old folks, that the less advantaged among us be supported by the rest of us in this one area, that "surely we can all agree that kids shouldn't have to go without healthcare in this country, right?" Her reply was, "Well, certainly old people should be taken care of."


I said, "Oh, sure, absolutely. Old people should be respected and given our very best, even if it means our taxes our slightly higher."

And she said, "Well, at least we should take care of the ones who were born here, not, y'know, the other ones, the Mexicans."


Calling upon my maturity, I let the Mexican thing slide and I replied to her that at least we could agree that kids from anywhere should be helped out if they have a cold or other illness or whatever, right?

She agreed.

But then I said, "Well, that's all I'm asking for, that we pass this healthcare reform bill, that we accept our moral obligation and move forward."

And then it happened. She said, "Well, I don't know. That Obama. I don't trust him. He won't even show us his birth certificate."

Awesome. I was, for the first time in my life, face to face with a Birther. It was as if I was being handed a cosmic gift, this opportunity. Life, for me, is a giant museum. Where ever I am, I look for the strange and unusual, whether it's art or architecture or food or clothing or human interaction. And so here I was, for my very first time, staring into the face of a Birther.

I hid my delight, the best I could, and I explained to her that he had provided his birth certificate, that it was a private document, just like yours and mine, but that he had given consent to officials from the state of Hawaii to publicly confirm the authenticity of the birth certificate, that there were birth announcements in two independent Hawaiian newspapers, that an official copy (the same kind you or I get when we need to provide one for employment or per the government's request) was provided to The Annenberg Foundation, etc.

She simply nodded and said, with little expression, "I don't know."

And with that, her cell phone rang and we parted company.

All in all, it was pretty satisfying. I don't maintain an enmity towards her. There's a lot of Birthers just south of us in Orange County. It's not unreasonable that I would eventually meet up with one. And she was so cool about the conversation that I could only smile and enjoy the moment. Which I did.

I'm reminded that life is indeed a journey, that I am Thoreau, walking in the woods, experiencing the uniqueness of each tree, of each puddle. The people whose path I cross are the natural elements in my universe. They are not for me to judge, they are for me to enjoy, to breathe in, to absorb as one would stroke the needles of an evergreen.

    - - - - - -

    "Many forms of Government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."

    -Winston Churchill

    - - - - - -

    Adde parvum parvo, magnus acervus erit.- "Continue adding a little, to what was originally little, and you will form a great heap."


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David said...

Well, I can't top those other comments for wisdom and pithiness, but I will say that this was one of my favorite blog posts of all time. Brilliant writing, suspenseful storytelling. I think, with a little tuning at the very end (it sort of drops off), this is good enough for the New Yorker. Wow you are a great writer!!! :)
-- Dave

dad said...

A great story and well told.
You are an artist with words

Dangermouse said...

Stu, what an arresting essay! I was riveted to my screen in anticipation, an incessant smile cemented to my face. I could taste your excitement in the moment it was presented to you and am honored to have shared it as though I were beside you.

Your father's words are unequivocal; You are a master of your craft, indeed an artist.

Ericka said...

those first two comments TOTALLY added to the discussion.

why do you call them "birthers?" i like it - it's got a good ring.

you should visit here - you can't swing a cat without hitting one of your trees to experience. and i forget sometimes, since most of them are usually rational, that they are bug nuts beneath the skin.

last week, the zealot (who has been very un-zerloty lately) started in with complete seriousness about how haiti is possessed by the devil and their people have cat-slit pupiled eyes and their voodoo satanism is why the earthquake happened. it was an interesting view into the heart of scary.

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Anonymous said...

As always, I am amazed at how calm and centered you remain in every situation.

I can only imagine how flabbergasted I would have been...

I do appreciate how thoughtfully you treated her. So many people would not have allowed her her dignity.

Suldog said...

In general agreement with Thimbelle, of course. You are a nice man, calm in political discussions, and that's one of the reasons I love you. We've had some disagreements, as you know, but we've never insulted the other guy. Would that all of our national political discourse were such!

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