Hammer pounds home good point
Tuesday, November 13, 2012 9:00 PM
I wasn't surprised to see John Hammer. With the election going the way it had, I more or less had been expecting him. Still, when he just shows up at your door, and his huge frame pretty much fills it up, it tends to take you back a bit.
Especially on a Saturday when the office is closed and no one else is around.
"John, I've got to find out how you get up here and how you do it so quietly."
His stare didn't really shed any light on the details.
Hammer has been coming around every so often for the past few years. He's a mountain of a man with a common sense approach to things. His face is lined and weathered and shows that the wisdom he's gained has come with a price. I've still never figured out his age. His voice and hands have a roughness that come from a lifetime of hard work. Honest hard work.
"I imagine you have some thoughts about the election?" I asked. With Hammer, it's always good to cut to the chase.
Instead of answering, he walked in slowly and sat down. I never thought my chairs were that small until Hammer filled one up.
"It's not so much about the election," he started, speaking slowly. His next words were even slower. And quieter. "It's about us."
I've found that Hammer is a man who doesn't talk that often, but when he does he means what he says. Sometimes, he's mad about something. This time was different.
"Let me ask you something, Timmons. Were you happy about the election?"
"Well, no, not really John. I imagine you weren't either."
"No. I think Obama's the worst president we've had, at least in my lifetime. I think we're headed in a bad direction. But let me ask you something else. Is he your president?"
I was puzzled.
"Obama? He your president?"
"Sure, John. He's the president."
"According to a lot of folks I hear talking on TV, it's like he ain't. I'm hearing that he might've won because black folks voted for him. Or because Hispanics voted. It's like they're trying to start something."
"I don't understand."
"Your folks, Timmons. The media. They're making this out to be like there's an us and a them. And they're making it out to be like Obama's part of them. Last time I looked we were still the United States of America. We can disagree all we want. Every four years we can try to vote someone in or someone out. But when it's all said and done, either celebrate or commiserate, then shut up, salute the flag and carry on. We're Americans and that's what we do. I've had just about enough of us and them."
I always hate it when Hammer lumps me in with the media. But he had a point.
"That's not the biggest problem though," he added. "The biggest problem isn't the president, it's us. We're changing Timmons. I think a lot of folks have forgot that if we still want to be a great nation that we have to give more than we get."
He paused. I stayed quiet.
"Are you old enough to remember JFK?"
"Sure, John. John F. Kennedy was the president when I was in school."
"He said something about asking not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country. We don't do that anymore, Timmons. We want to take out more than we put in. We don't get that when we do that, we're on a bad path. It's got me worried, Timmons."
"Well, me too, John. But what can we do about it?"
"I don't know. All I know is that we're way off track. We teach kids that everyone is a winner. Well, they're not. Someone wins and someone loses and that's OK. Do you get that, Timmons? Losing is part of life. There're lessons to be learned, win or lose. We've gotten away from that and now we give every kid a trophy for participating. We've made the price of failure pretty cheap and that's a problem. Hell, the government has higher standards for raising kids than some parents do. That's a problem."
He sat there for a time. It seemed like a long time.
"I just know that it's us. We better start doing more for our country than it does for us. I may not like him, but I'm going to start with respecting my president - the man and the office. We need to come together and we need to do more. It's that simple."
With that, Hammer slowly got up and walked away. As usual, his words lingered.
Two cents, which is about how much Timmons said his columns are worth, appears periodically on Wednesdays in The Paper. Timmons is the publisher of The Paper and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.