Friday, July 1, 2016

Who are those people on the placemat?

     This column suffered for space. I normally get 650 words; I asked for more and got 900, so I shouldn't complain. Still, I lost Earl Sensenig talking about coming to Bedford from Lancaster to help build the new Mennonite community, and Charles Crumb talking about starting Bits of Time because of his love of antiques, and Rev. Reed quoting Chronicles. And I wasn't able to quite explain why I was doing it, how this country seems so divided, and the problem seems to be that it's easy to demonize each other and hard to try to understand. But I set out to withhold my own opinion and just listen to everyone on the placemat, and to their credit, everyone who picked up the phone spoke with me, candidly and at length. Despite being the dreaded mainstream media, they trusted me. And despite having a very different view of the world than they do, I liked them, and felt like we respected each other. It's a start.

    Paper place mats are not a celebrated form of communication, with neither the romance of messages in bottles nor the eager audience for fortune cookies.
     In fact, I didn’t glance at the place mat in front of me as we settled in at the Bedford Diner in Bedford, Pennsylvania, on our way home from vacation Monday. But my sharp-eyed wife drew attention to it, pointing out the services offered: Excavation. Well drilling. Hydraulic cylinder repair.
     “A lot of industrial,” she said, knowing I like industrial.
     A dozen ads, plus one for the diner and a word search. Here, I thought, are people who want to get a message out, who paid RAK Advertising, trying to be heard. I should listen. So I phoned them all.
     “Business is tough right now,” said Joe Ryan, 50, who runs Ryan Services, a general contractor. “It is somewhat slow. The natural gas business affected the area. We had the Marcellus (shale formation) right beside us in the Allegheny Mountains. A lot of drilling for natural gas. In ’07, ’08, companies out of Texas moved up, started drilling. They drilled so much, there was such an abundant supply, prices fell and a lot of people lost their jobs. We have work but not as much as we should.”

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  1. I can't explain why, but today's article is a real cathartic relief. Perhaps it's a feeling that come what may, we will not only get by, but improve as a nation as time passes. Even though I'm against everything he stands for, I voted for Bernie Sanders partly in memory of my grandmother, who was an IWW member, and because he was able to take a melancholy song and turn it into a campaign ad of hope. It's depressing to realize our best prospect for president will feature four years dominated by Sidney Blumenthal and other political operative's slime.

  2. A good start to Year Four of the blog. After reading this it struck me how sad that the folks you spoke to, who seem like decent people trying to survive while longing for the "days of old", represent so many Americans who will be voting for Donald Trump because they feel they have no other choice. They seem to hate what Hillary stands for while missing the disaster that Trump would be. It just boggles my mind that a once great Republican party gave us this candidate and we actually nominated him.


  3. Good article, NS. Bernie, I second your opinion.

    Now I feel the urge to go out and buy some cherry pie.

  4. What I get out of this is that advertising works and negative advertising works best of all. If the Republican party were a company trying to get greater market share, say like Pepsi versus Coca Cola, Pepsi couldn't malign Coke with insinuations of evil doings day after day, week after week, year after year. But if it could, Coca Cola would surely suffer the same fate Hillary has: an aura of contamination, an undefined sense of misgiving about her character, a deep seated doubt about her competence, all engendered by the never ending criticism of everything she's ever done or attempted to do. I think she has to figure a way to get rid of that black cloud hovering over her head, not to win the presidency, but to be able to govern effectively after she does win it.


  5. Some people have the notion that things were so much better in their youth. I think 24 hour news, the internet have made them think things are worse. What is worse for a lot of people is the economy. Even though jobs have increased a lot of people are not making what they made before and their money does not go as far as it used to. I get that people on the right an left are ticked off with Congress. But I think for different reasons. I know that there are very smart people for Trump. One of the smartest people I know is a Trump supporter. The guy is all over the map. He changes his positions almost daily. He lies about everything. He promises stuff like building a wall, deporting millions of people, making people say merry Christmas. Meanwhile Clinton gets crushed as being this big liar and not being honest. This article that was from facebook, makes some great points. No doubt she is a liberal hawk, and favors the banks. Still I would rather see her in office than Trump. It would be such a disaster if he was elected.

  6. Someone needs to tell that halfwit pastor that the United States was not founded as a Christian nation.
    Jefferson specifically refuted that.
    Most of the Founding Fathers considered themselves to be deists, what we call agnostics today.

  7. Fine job of reporting. I think you captured the zeitgeist of small town America and displayed it honestly and forthrightly for your readers, without judgmental or patronizing commentary, giving each individual the chance to express his own thoughts and feelings. Nice job.



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