Over a period of many years I have spent, and continue to spend, considerable time in the waiting rooms of various clinics in two military hospitals, Brooke Army Medical Center and Wilford Hall Medical Center, both in San Antonio, Texas. I often take a paperback copy of Thoreau’s Walden along to help pass the time. In addition to Walden, the book includes Thoreau’s On the Duty of Civil Disobedience, his classic protest against government’s interference with individual liberties. From the back cover: One of the most famous essays ever written, it came to the attention of Gandhi and formed the basis for his passive resistance movement.
While in the waiting room I also read any literature that might be available. There is always a wide selection from which to choose, donated by patients and staff—paper back books and hardbound books, detective novels, romance novels, westerns, self-help books, children’s books, medical literature, and periodicals ranging from Reader’s Digest (I love the Humor in Uniform section) to Cosmopolitan with its ubiquitous tips for good sex, usually professing to be “what women really want” or “what men really want,” all probably written by men—and then again, perhaps not.
Any publication, regardless of theme, has the potential of increasing one’s store of knowledge—one simply needs to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Prompted by a front-cover blurb that read, Exclusive interview! President Barack Obama, I recently read an article in Black Enterprise—Your ultimate source for wealth creation, in the issue dated April 2009. The article was written by a Black Enterprise journalist following a 15-minute telephone conversation with the president, an interview purported to be “the first black publication to get an interview with the president,” and “the first magazine to gain an exclusive with Barack Obama since he took oath on Jan. 20.” From that 15-minute phone interview, Black Enterprise journalist Derek T. Dingle produced a well-written article that covered all, or part of, five pages in the 8.5 x 11 inch, 96-page publication.
I recommend the article to any reader, regardless of one’s political affiliation. Different readers will have different opinions on its content, but there is definitely knowledge to be gleaned—and although I run the risk of repeating myself, I will repeat myself—one simply needs to separate the wheat from the chaff.
This is the pearl I gleaned following multiple readings of the article and an unbiased—really—attempt to separate the wheat from the chaff (yes, it’s another repetition, but it’s one that is important).
The president’s stool is wobbly.
Yes—I said it, and I believe it. The president’s stool is wobbly, and at this point I feel an urgent need to define stool, a word that has many meanings. In this context (from Wikipedia), it means a backless seat consisting of a small flat piece of wood resting on three or four legs, and specific to a milking stool, a low three-legged stool used to sit on while milking a cow.
My contention that the president’s stool is wobbly was formed on the first page of the article. The last sentence in the article’s third paragraph reads as follows: In less than a month in office, he signed the $787 billion economic recovery package, purportedly the largest overhaul of the U.S. economy in history.
The first sentence in the next paragraph reads as follows: That action, the president asserts, represents only “one leg of the stool” in his mission to revamp the economic and financial system.” In the same paragraph, the president refers to three other plans; to ensure the financial stability of banks, to help struggling homeowners modify their mortgages and stabilize home prices, and to review structuring plans of domestic automakers.
By my count the president created a four-legged stool in those two paragraphs—one leg for economic recovery, a second for bank stability, a third for mortgages and home prices, and a fourth for restructuring plans of domestic automakers. Of course, as all are aware, he has created many more “stools” in the interim, and it’s a sure bet that all have at least four legs.
In my far distant past, in addition to numerous other farm chores, I spent a significant amount of time sitting on a milking stool, one positioned properly to facilitate extracting milk from one of various milk cows. And guess what? The stool had only three legs.
A true milking stool—a professional milking stool, if you will—has only three legs. Three legs only, not four, with each leg cleverly placed equidistant from the others. The terrain on which the milking operation is performed will always be level if selected by the milker, but if selected by the milkee, the terrain may not be level. With a four-legged stool the milker will constantly be required to maintain equilibrium while milking the cow. A three-legged stool will always be stable, regardless of the terrain, and the milker can concentrate on the intricacies of his task.
Hence the three legs as opposed to four legs—the three-legged stool will provide the milker a steady platform from which to operate. The four-legged stool serves the milker well if on level terrain, but if the terrain is not level the stool will wobble, and as any old-time milker will testify, the job is precarious enough without a wobbly stool adding to the discomfort and dangers already present. The stool may be a bit canted from a true horizontal surface—in that event, the milker must compensate for the slope in order to finish the job.
In those long-gone and little-missed good old days, a milker arrived at his work site by a circuitous route, stepping over, around and sometimes in barnyard patties that often lurked in unlikely spots. Given the fact that young milkers sometimes milked in the half-light of morning and evening, plus the fact that such milkers were wont to go barefoot in summer, some missteps were predictable and numerous.
A milker often worked in extreme cold, or in extreme heat in a malodorous atmosphere, all the while ducking a constantly swishing tail and dodging hind-leg kicks aimed at the milk bucket or the milker or both, all the while attracting and stoically enduring the attention of flies, fleas, wasps and mosquitoes—a milker had no choice, because both hands were gainfully employed.
If we look closely enough, we will find that the president faces similar obstacles and distractions in his administration. I believe we can compare the president’s job with milking a cow, albeit a far more complex job, far more intricate and in a much more favorable working environment, and the effects, whether success or failure, are far more reaching than a botched milking. In a botched milking only the cow will suffer—if the president’s job is botched, our people, our nation and our future will suffer.
In summary, the president’s stool is wobbly because it has more than three legs and is not on level terrain. He should remove all legs above the count of three, ensuring that the remaining three legs are equidistant from each other. And if his stool (his presidential platform) is canted, he must compensate for the slope—he must hang on (please ignore the inadvertent pun) by using whatever muscle or muscles are available in order to finish the job .
Some may feel that I have taken an inordinate amount of time to support my contention that the president’s stool is wobbly because it is not on a firm foundation, and that he may be—nay, will be—distracted from his mission by the need to counteract its action and thereby risk failure to attain his goals, or at best attaining some but not all of his goals.
I offer no apologies to anyone—not to the president nor to my readers—not for my analysis of the Black Enterprise article nor for my analogy of the milking stool. The president is working from a precarious perch on terrain that is not level—he should either change the terrain or remove some of the legs on his perch. I believe my three-legged stool theory of government is as plausible, as reasonable and as workable as any theory that has been formulated in the past, and I offer it up for consideration, whether for our nation, for other nations, or for the world.
An afterthought that comes to mind:
I frequently hear the term double down used in reference to political operations, meaning that by adding additional items, usually to bring specific people on board, to a change that is not gaining wide acceptance, in hopes that the change might be pushed through.
Double down is a gambling term used in blackjack—if a player is initially dealt a pair—any pair, whether aces, face cards, tens or other values—he is allowed to double his original bet by splitting the pair, giving him the opportunity of besting the dealer on two hands rather than one. However, it also means he may lose two bets instead of one. If the player splits the pair, the dealer will give each hand one or more additional cards, face up, as requested by the player using the term, “Hit me.” In all instances the dealer will insist that the player “make one hand good before looking at the other.”
I mention the term double down only because it has often been used in this president’s administration. I submit that my three-legged theory, if followed properly, would produce far better results than doubling down. However, the gambling metaphor still applies—the president should make good the first three legs of policies offered for consideration before proposing further changes—in other words, make one hand good before looking at the other.
This is a note for any readers of this posting:
There is some wheat in this posting, wheat that warrants your time and effort to search for it among the chaff and then separate it. Yes, I know, it’s another repetition—I said it’s important, remember?
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.