Monday, October 19, 2009

This Is Not Success

lloyd, marcus, american, thinker, health care, conservative, reform,

Lloyd Marcus at American Thinker has an odd definition of success: being on the edge of homelessness and starvation and dying from cancer.

Recently, I rediscovered the only anti-poverty program that really works. A knock came to my front door. It was a small built, average height white guy in his late thirties, early forties dressed in jeans and a white t-shirt. "Excuse me sir, I need work. I have seven kids and a wife to feed." Kenny proceeded to tell me in his thick southern accent about his many skills; construction, lawn care, tile, mechanics and more. Due to downturns in the economy, Kenny was having great difficulty keeping steady employment.

As I am admittedly technically and mechanically challenged, I put Kenny to work. Upon discovering that I was a black man married to a white woman, Kenny looked surprised; not judgmental or disapproving, just surprised. Kenny did a meticulous job tiling a floor at our Arts Center. He tuned up my car and fixed my lawnmower. He poured the concrete for our patio; very professional, meticulously done. Kenny likes to listen to country music on his radio while he works. When Kenny was working on my patio, he asked if the music bothered me and offered to turn it off. I said, no problem, enjoy yourself.

When Kenny was working on our air conditioner, we chatted a bit. Through my typical probing questions, I learned that Kenny had a difficult childhood. His dad was an alcoholic. Kenny himself has also had problems with alcohol in the past. Kenny's wife is ill, suspected cancer. They have a combined family of seven kids from previous marriages. So, Kenny has a lot on his plate.

And the answer to Kenny's problems: odd jobs at Mr. Marcus' house. Unless Mr. Marcus is providing health insurance to Kenny, I fail to see how that's going to stop Kenny's wife from dying of cancer.

Think about this for one second: this is the conservative answer to our current economic and healthcare woes: begging for work door to door, depending on the charity of others. How many doors do you suppose Kenny knocked on before Mr. Marcus gave him work? How much work do you suppose Kenny will get when Mr. Marcus runs out of necessary repairs? And how many Kennys can Mr. Marcus help, anyway?

By the way, the condescension Mr. Marcus heaps on Kenny just gets worse.

I am struck by this simple man's positive attitude, character and pride in everything he does. Kenny told me he has forgiven his dad and moved on. When hit with bad news about his wife's medical condition, Kenny's response blew me away. He said, "Sometimes "laufe" (life) challenges you and you just gotta deal with it." I thought, Wow!

I wonder how Kenny's wife feels about dying her medical condition. Maybe her comments just weren't delivered in a sufficiently homey accent to deserve being passed on.

I've grown to have the utmost respect for Kenny. Rather than whining, he literally knocked on doors seeking work. He is a man of his word, does a great job and always goes the extra mile. He loves his kids and his wife. They are a happy family. My wife Mary and I are growing close to them. Though I do not require it, Kenny insists on addressing me as sir. Some would call Kenny a redneck, country music, southern drawl and many times shirtless. I call Kenny, a friend.

A happy family with a dying mother? Bet they won't be happy for long. And, Mr. Marcus, maybe you feel good for "befriending" the country music listening, drawling, shirtless notredneck, but I don't call my friends "sir", so I have suspicions about your "friendship".

Oh, and I don't let my friends die from cancer without even trying to do something about it, let along actively fighting against the only means of saving them.


  1. Calling someone "sir" is a bit different in the South and Midwest. It is usually done in an employee employer relationship, but I have called my own friends sir and they have called me sir. It is about respect.

    Maybe this will actually open his eyes and see that even when people are trying they still can't get health care.

  2. I have to say, I don’t understand your reaction to this very well, PF. I read this and I just see a guy who was happy to give a man in need some jobs to do, and the two became friends along the way. Not BFFs, perhaps, but cordial and genial. I really don’t see how Marcus’ tone can be perceived as “condescending”. He seemed quite honest with his description of Kenny, to me.

  3. Oh, you don't live in the US, do you Jo-ey?

    There's a pretty common character that gets a lot of play in American literature and movies from a certain time period- the wise Southern fool was what I called it in my AP exam paper.

    The wise Southern fool is something like the Magical Negro- he's "simple" and "honest" and "hardworking". He's a man of few words, but a wise spirit. He is ignorant, but the purity of his wisdom changes even the most intellectual of men.

    It's a way of portraying Southern/poor people that seems complimentary, but isn't really, any more than the Magical Negro is complimentary to black people.

    Here it is at TV Tropes, listed as Sweet Home Alabama:

    The Deep South in a (usually) more positive light. The Southern states of the United States are a land of honest, down-to-earth folks, unlike the pretentious City Slickers from up North (usually New Yorkers). Some may have their little quirks, but everyone takes those in stride. When one wants to escape the morally bankrupt superficiality of city life and get in touch with one's true self, the South is the place to go to.

  4. Who knew that providing someone with a job, or someone going out an getting one is a bad thing? I agree with Joe.

    Also, I didn't see anything about a dying mother, but just that his wife was ill and cancer was suspected. Since he got a report on her medical condition, it appears she must be seeing a doctor. How do you know she doesn't have any insurance? There's nothing about it in the article. And if she doesn't, with lacking steady work, and since they have seven kids, they almost certainly qualify for Medicaid. It seems like you are reading way too much into this little story.

    As BeamStalk mentioned, it's fairly common to call people "sir" & "ma'am" in the South, especially someone in authority over you, or significantly older.

  5. @PersonalFailure:
    I’m not quite sure what to make of your comment. For one thing, I may be a Canadian, but I spent grew up in Texas and carry a very good recollection of my time there. Add to that the fact that the only TV I watch, books I read (other than Harry Potter) and websites I visit are American, and I may as well be a Yank myself.

    I would like to know why you spell my name out like that.

  6. My dad and his friends (Southern men all) call each other "sir" a lot. Of course, no one works for any of the others in their group of friends, so...

  7. I guess we are missing something about the author? His stance on healthcare? His stance on solution to the unemployment?

  8. Well, given that the author describes giving odd jobs to people who come knocking as "the only anti-poverty program that really works" and says that people who don't come knocking on doors are "whining," I think we can deduce his stance on healthcare or solution to unemployment.

  9. Yeah, nevermind, somehow that first sentence "I rediscovered the only anti-poverty program that really works" didn't register. That's just silly.

  10. The comments were even more depressing. I could only stand to read the first page.


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