You could tell it was the truth. A man may lie but his hands never do.
He had just said he worked in the fields.
That’s Texas-speak for Oil Fields. Where Progressives see the end of civilization and locals see a steady job.
We were working at a good clip. Currently, we were signing gold, felt, number fours — my uniform number when I played for the fictional pee-wee hockey team, The Mighty Ducks.
His job was to flip the numbers as I signed my name with a Sharpie.
That’s when he told me about signing legal forms for the fields.
“Stacks of them. Your hand gets tired. So if you need a break, let me know. ”
My scribble was devolving into cave etching. I’ve always been secretly ashamed of my signature. I wish it looked more fluid. Like Zorro had done it. But it is what it is.
I picked the Sharpie back up and soldiered on. But, his comment about the fields stuck with me.
I looked at the man. He didn’t look like a bigot. Or a racist. Nor a Nazi or Alt-white zombie. Seemed like a pretty nice guy. He was a Mighty Duck fan. And an oil worker. I can’t say with authority, but I assume he voted for Trump. An overwhelming majority of Texans did — and we weren’t in Austin– so, it was a safe assumption.
If he didn’t, then many like him did and I don’t think the majority of them did it out of party loyalty. Or ideology. But because of their job. The EPA and the Paris Climate Conference was reduced to a simple point of survival out here. Like when they were closing military bases back in the late 90s. It didn’t have to do with nuclear proliferation in rural South Carolina near a Naval Weapons Base, but simply the chance not to work at Walmart.
The Times have a’changed, but, not really…
It’s still a city / country thing. This divide. As we hunker down in our trenches and demonize the enemy on the other side of no man’s land to fill our idle hours with fantasies and justification…
It stayed with me. I can’t help but feel that all of this subtrafuge and fear and double speak is a simple job thing. It carried with me into seat 34A on the Southwest flight back to Los Angeles. As I watched the wasted space of a vast desert spread out in the sandbox 39,000 feet below, I imagined superimposing solar fields and thought of John and Yoko’s ad campaign “WAR IS OVER.”
I suddenly flashed on Gandhi and his march to the sea and home spun cotton. The importance of home spun cotton. Bringing down an empire with a Spinning wheel.
Your mind wanders at 450 miles an hour up in the clouds… or at least mine does.
Our rural way of life has been gutted by vanishing industry and corporate policies that have actively undermined and outsourced the foundry of our once great economy.
These are the people they left behind. So, of course our neighbors to the south and east cling to whatever well intended, but myopic, view their livelihoods demand. Thus, the issues of the world get distorted because they are personal to many of us. How can we think of the future when we are thinking in terms of Christmas gifts for our kids ?
It’s about a good job. It always has been and it always will be.
So, what will it take for real change? Maybe … We just need this guy in the fields to have a conversion of faith. And we need to support him as our whole culture transitions.
As we step back from the brink like we have so so so many times before. In October ninety miles off the Florida Coast, in Greece, in Turkey, in Israel….
I looked out the window from seat 34A again at the cracked earth of southern New Mexico. Somewhere to the north was the Trinity Site.
I saw it again in my intervisions. Maybe I am a dreamer but picture it with me. The entire southwest dominated by vast fields of solar power. Our reinvented rust belt anchoring a reindustrialization that is the spear head of the environmental boom- where we become the world leader again in another era of progressive and proactive environmental reform . And all of it anchored in the small towns that make up this great country.
I grew up near small towns. On the edge of a great city.
Where a Nabisco plant, or a Distribution Center, UPS training facility was enough to make a Company Town. But now it seems like prisons are the biggest employers for so many of our dying towns straddling rail roads whose names we lost to time.
Maybe the oil worker vote counts more than mine. He is the swing and the fulcrum. Of course, many conservative law makers in rural states are self professed “climate skeptics” because they have to be. Their constituents are dependent on industries that are in the energy field. And if the oil worker ain’t working, then the man in the county seat is going to be out of a job as well. But if their constituents are working for Tesla and or building transformers to house solar power, then they are suddenly changed into climate change advocates.
I had a high level political advisor in my Lyft one time. This was back in the beginning of the primary season. Before any of the eventual candidates even announced. The guy was in town facilitating a speaking event for GW Bush. We talked after he got off the phone. He was trying to figure out which horse to back. It was either Jeb or Hillary. I paused and looked at him in the rearview mirror. He had come up in Bill’s campaign as a teenager and a wunderkind. He looked like a baby with wrinkles. I asked him, “they’re on different ends of the, you know, spectrum?”
He looked up from a text message and said.
And gave no other answer. It didn’t matter. It was indeed a job thing.