Diary

Capitalist Reflections on the Birthday I Share with My Country

I wasn’t going to post today, but events conspired to demonstrate to me that I had to post on the birthday I share with my country.

I recall my severe disappointment on my 3rd or 4th birthday when I learned that all those fireworks were not for me, but that was short lived.   I’ve been lucky all my life to be able to realize the many ways that I’ve been blessed, and I soon saw the advantages of sharing a birthday with my country of birth.

I was awakened by a phone call from Germany.  My wife, taking a side trip from her Portuguese holiday, was translating into German and Portuguese my responses to her birthday greetings and questions.  They were enjoying ‘ein bier’ (perhaps drei or vier) after a day touring the local lake near Munchen.  They were already in a 4th of July mood, celebrating their companionship and my birthday and perhaps a little vicariously, our US birthday.  Everyone’s welcome!  Yes, I missed church today.  No, I’m not BAR B Q’ing today.  Yes, I’m going to the beach in People’s Republic of Santa Monica (which I never do) to walk with Matthew Perdie on his last mile in his walk across the US.  Meeting right at the ball park where my son played so much ball.

A few minutes of morning reading reminds me of what Andrew Jackson had to do to end the Bank of the United States and begin the journey to eventually provision our country with a currency system that reflected the productivity of our nation’s business and not its supply of specie.  Capitalist tool.

Every blog I read regularly has published the Declaration of Independence this morning.

Next, I heard the most capitalist sound in the country.  Lawnmowers.  Like many US youth, I launched my own capitalist career with the borrowed capital that was my parent’s lawnmower.  Hilaro had arrived and it was time to move my own truck out of the driveway to grant access to the grass between the driveway segments.  Unlike me in my youth, Hilaro has invested real capital in a good but old truck, a trailer, and quiet equipment that won’t disturb our neighbors.  Isa and I have always been impressed by how hard Hilaro (and his crew) works and by his honesty.

Hilaro now has a long stop on our block because he now does about 5 neighboring yards with our recommendation.   We need to naturalize and educate guys like Hilaro and let them run our Wall Street firms.  They believe (uncynically) in the capitalist opportunity that is the US; they are honest, and they know the difference between what is theirs and what belongs to others.  And they don’t ask for help.  Hilaro’s head bobs.  I want to tell him I am not his patron.  I ask him what year his truck is.  1970.  The year I was trying to win the Science Fair in Jenks, OK as a sophomore at a rural high school that didn’t have a science fair, but that went to the state football championship that year; I went too, but as the photographer, not a player.  I tell him I covet that truck.  I really do.

A few days ago I got to stand in front of a crowd at a Tea Party event and introduce a new constituent who had just naturalized.  I waved a voter registration form and bragged that I would get to register this new citizen (I had already checked to see if I could administer his oath – I cannot).  The crowd went wild to welcome Manuel to our country.   Other senior politicians began maneuvering to take this ‘constituent service opportunity’ away from me.  Ha.  Manuel has done masterful carpentry on our house for 5 years, and it’s his work that won our home an award.  He’s not going to let anybody but me register him to vote.

He was scared to death when he went in for his final naturalization interview.

That interview ended with the words that completely surprised and gratified him: ‘Congratulations.  You are now a US Citizen.”  Manuel had made 5 trips to the consulate in Bogata and heard ‘no’ before he was allowed to come here and join his wife.  He’d been working as a security operative for the UN in the most violent city in the world.  He’s the real deal, not because his gentility and nobility came from the media and a ‘good education’ but because he has fought the real battle and knows the real choices; he chose to be a real man.  A husband who knows true husbandry.   Such a kind and gentle father to his two beautiful daughters who were joyfully picking tomatoes in our back yard at dusk last night.  Manuel and his wife bought a house just blocks from ours.  They are living the American dream.  They have earned it.  This wasn’t cynical arbitrage and derivative gambles with other people’s money.  It was real sweat.  Real capitalism.

Two days after demonstrating to Manuel just how welcome he was as a new citizen (I had totally sandbagged him by just going to get him for the Tea Party event and not telling him where we were going), Manuel  came to me with a serious problem.  Business ‘misunderstanding’.  Contract problem.   Manuel is scared to death again.  Manuel was hired to demolish the tile in a kitchen to make way for granite counter tops from another contractor.  After the demolition is completed, then the ‘misunderstanding’ arises.  ‘Your quote included the granite.’ – when it manifestly did not, as accompanying paperwork from other contractors quickly reveals.  Manuel returns the deposit for the work and apologizes for the misunderstanding.  He has now lost $400 and is scared to boot.  A polite letter from me singing Manuel’s praises (and pointing out the fact that he is a new citizen) silences the (dishonest?) homeowner who we suspect is trying to take advantage of an ‘illegal’ alien.

I feel that this is exactly the ‘constituent service’ that the voters hired me to perform.  I tell Manuel that his poor English is fine with me.  I’m OK with that.  But as a businessman in the community, to protect himself and his customers, he needs to improve his English a little and learn how to fill out a quote form/agreement.  He nods.  He gets it instantly.   He’ll probably be in my wife’s ESL class this fall (that was how we met his wife).  He’s a capitalist – because capitalism knows no language.   And he’s willing to learn in the greatest lab for capitalism ever established.  He’ll experiment in that lab successfully and simply amplify his success.

That lab has rewarded my own firm in the past, and now challenges my firm.  My firm responds by developing new products; a new experiment.   It’s the laboratory that produced the richest country in the world.   Current experiments in that lab are failing.  But we will change that over the next few years.  We will again grow as the richest country in the world.

Our Country.  My Country.  Manuel’s Country.  Maybe Hilaro’s Country.

UPDATE: the file just arrived that will put the voter count over two million.  Happy Birthday.  I bob my head.