I have to tell a true story to establish my simpatico with the self-made man who doesn’t quite fit in with the local establishment.
When newly married, in law school, a man moved into my wife’s home town, known by most simply as “Chicken Man”. I knew him because he was a member of the local country club, where I always played golf when visiting. He had been a dock worker in Indiana but his wife was a niece of Colonel Sanders, and after the Colonel sold KFC he established another chicken franchise. The Colonel offered Chicken Man five counties in Central Kentucky, which he quickly turned into a gold mine. No education to speak of, unlettered and unread, (he once spoke of “elderlyberry wine” …I used to keep a list of Chicken’s malapropisms) he was nonetheless a natural at business. He just didn’t have all the manners and culture one learns in college to know how to fit in with the older money in town, and had quickly become the object of whispered mockery typical of a southern Baptist town.
E.g., he bought a golf cart, then added an oogah horn, and put a rectangular front end on it that looked like a Rolls Royce. (No, really.)
Someone said he had that special knack only few people have, of paying $15,000 for a Cadillac then sinking another $10,000 into turning it back into a Chevrolet.
And like Rodney Dangerfield in the great 1980 film about snobbery, “Caddyshack”, he wore the most garish of clothes on the golf course.
He even carried his bank statement in his hip pocket, to show other club members his current wealth.
But Chicken Man had another side. You already know my love affair with the common man and woman and my praise for their successes, for they are constant reminders of the shoulders I also stand on. When I hear one of those stories, all I can ever say is “God Bless America”. That’s my rosary.
In the 10 years I lived in that town I got to know Chicken Man pretty well. A fair golfer, as I said, he was the most ridiculed man at the country club, as old money is wont to treat new money. My own father-in-law, who had worked for only one company all his life, had just reached senior management and finally crossed that six-figure barrier in the early 80s. Sitting on the bank board he knew of Chicken Man’s wealth first hand, and one day, while sitting in the car drinking Cutty Sark from a plastic cup, (a dry county practice many of you may not be familiar with) the subject of Chicken’s wealth came up and suddenly he blurted out, “Dammit, it just isn’t fair. I spent six years in college, and worked for this company for over 30 years, to finally reach this spot then here comes along a dock worker selling chicken, of all damn things, and becomes a millionaire in less than ten. It just isn’t fair, dammit.”
All my life I’ve had that one stock answer to that observation, which, in hindsight, I may or may not regret, but I answered “God bless America. Ain’t it grand?” The look he gave me could chill a cat. It was like I had hit him…half disbelief, half hatred. And our mutual respect for one another went in the opposite direction from that day on, until he could finally convince his daughter I was not the sort of man to raise his grandchildren.
Like Mick Hensley, who was looked down upon by my mother, a 10th grade dropout, because he wanted to drop out in 8th grade, Chicken Man reminds me that snobbery is no longer the sole reservoir of old money. I knew him pretty well and knew he was honorable…and generous to a fault…supporting almost all the local charities. He sent the cheerleaders of the high school off to camp every summer for 15 years. But he would never give a nickel to NPR, so reported my best friend, who always manned the NPR phone bank during their annual fund raising drive, who self-righteously called him a cheap bumpkin.
Chicken died suddenly in the 1990s, much of his wealth dissipated by a brother who he’d given a line of mini-marts and a son who partied it away. But he had a daughter who went onto college, then med school and now specializes somewhere in the Midwest, last I heard.. Her children may never know whose shoulders they’re standing on.
So, just so you’ll know, these Rodney Dangerfield pics are a tribute to Chicken Man, although I’ll bet you thought I had Donald Trump in mind. Didn’t you?
Which brings us back to Donald Trump and my axiom that “almost everything said about Donald is really about something else.”
In America the “old money versus new money” cliché goes back to our beginning. The Roosevelt’s go back to the 1600s. And in time they looked down upon the new industrial money that arose from the post-Civil War, who in turn had become old money by the time the whiskey-running Kennedy’s, Irish, of all races, would come to the Beltway after Prohibition. Today the Kennedy’s are treated as old money as well.
God bless America, eh?, for even in our rules of snobbery we are purely America. What Frenchman today would ever consider an Irish wharf-rat like John Kerry to be upper class simply because he spent his free time walking around balancing a dictionary on his head, and learning to lip-sync Laurence Olivier in “Pride and Prejudice”, then marry a rich women?
As a class, American elitism stands alone.
Now fast forward to today, for it’s gotten out of hand. When money no longer seems to have anything to do with class, 35-40 year old ne’er-do-well’s with even a little skill in writing can line up to claim to be among the gentler classes solely on the basis that they actually studied Marbury vs Madison in a classroom…and can therefore look down their nose at a man, an Ivy League man, even, who builds things, massive things, instead of reading case law. Or so they are conditioned to believe about themselves.
And then feel they can redirect the entire purpose of the nation to glorifying their presence around the boardroom table, a process which has been going on in American corporate boardroom for about 40 years now. The Roosevelt’s were building in this country for seven generations before they felt the need to go to law school, or into politics to certify their bloodline.
At our grass roots, well into our third generation of the Culture of Envy, witness Chicken Man, instead of celebrating a man’s hard work, skill (natural or otherwise) and yes, luck, which once upon a time in America grew wild like prairie grass, just waiting to be harvested, we now brand them mountebanks and thieves. Had Donald Trump got an English degree at Yale instead of a business degree at Penn he would have been far more qualified to be president.
We are at a stage in America where ideological snobbery has become indistinguishable from religious self-righteousness. When he endorsed Donald Trump Jerry Falwell Jr pointed to those skills particular to his craft, not the Constitution, not Scriptures, as much as admitting that narrow-mindedness had isolated Christians to the extent that targeting them by the Left had become legal sport, enough so that they they now stand the chance of losing the fertile American ground their collective faiths have plowed, weeded, hoed and born fruit with for the past two hundred years. Much of that ground has now grown fallow, even rocky, and stands the risk of being bulld0zed.
Did I mention Falwell endorsed Donald Trump, not Ted Cruz? First things first he seems to have been saying. Save the ground, re-plow it before there’s any talk of rebuilding the flock.
I have no doubt that if Ted Cruz is elected president he will pursue every ideological and Constitutional end he’s promised the voters. But will he be able to achieve them? A few? Any? The enemies of the Left, and now we know for certain, his own party, will all be aligned against him. Ideology will have nothing to do with that fight. Sometimes it doesn’t work out so well when we send a priest to a knight’s fight.
But I also believe that if Donald Trump were elected he too would keep faith with his pledges. His ideological skills are far smaller than Cruz, but his ability to cause things to happen is far greater…especially now that the people, all the people, know that their true enemy is Washington itself…that whole rotten apple barrel on of the Potomac.
This is why Donald Trump has replaced Ted Cruz as the Establishment’s worst nightmare. If Donald builds the Wall, one does not have to be ideological to count all the establishment roots that will be dug up in order to lay it into the ground…open immigration, the Wall Street control of Congress, and the Republican step-child relationship with the Democrats. All gone. And an additional 10 million Republican voter base, if the state parties will just find a new leadership who will appreciate their participation.
Rush Limbaugh says that if the GOP establishment can snuff out the rise of a private president this time around, after having dispatched Herman Cain in 2014, we will not see another one for many, many years. I believe (insist) very much a citizen-president from the private sector is a necessity if we are to re-integrate the People into the political process as the true owners of the country. Once done, let the people sort out the Chicken Men and Rodney Dangerfield’s from the Herman Cain’s, instead of the elf-appointed blue bloods fresh out of law school.