Ordinarily getting my hair cut here in Podunk is pretty boring. That is because usually I am the only one there and the barber and I do not talk to each other beyond “hello.” I originally chose this barber on the advice of a friend who told me he wouldn’t talk to me. I don’t like barbers who talk to me. This is because of experience. I have never known a barber who was not a conservative, usually a rabid one. I am told by friends there are liberal barbers but I have never found one. So, although I knew this barber would be a conservative, as we did not talk it did not matter. Even having to listen to Rush Limbaugh on our local radio station, who apparently is featured on the station almost all the time, did not keep me from returning to the same barber, although I found it difficult not to laugh out loud at the braying jackass on the radio. This particular haircut was simultaneously interesting and depressing.
Anyway, yesterday was different. As I drove up to the place there were two pickup trucks parked alongside what I knew to be the barber’s car (you do not walk to this shop although they say walk-ins are welcome). I decided to go for a walk rather than wait. After a brisk 25 minute walk I retrieved my truck from where I parked it and returned to the shop only to find three pickups! I thought about leaving, but I really did need a haircut, so I paused trying to decide what to do. At that moment an older man with an enormous belly came out, got in his pickup and left. I decided to just enter and wait my turn.
There were two men with enormous bellies, one in the barber chair, the other waiting. Rush was on the radio talking about the Supreme Court. Then a conversation ensued. The barber, who must have been responding to one of the customers, said loudly, “I didn’t think it was possible to have a President worse than Jimmy Carter, but if he was around now I’d vote for him, at least he was a harmless liberal.” There was a moment of Rush carrying on about Scalia’s sarcastic remark, “Do they expect us to read all 2700 pages?” The three of them all agreed that much reading would be far too demanding, one suggesting maybe they could break it up and each read only 300 pages. The barber then observed that no one had ever read the whole thing and no one ever would. He then announced, “I’m not going to vote for anyone, I’m going to vote against Obama.” Although I felt somewhat cowardly I said nothing. I learned long ago not to discuss politics with morons. Rush continued his ranting about Obamacare and the government, what a travesty the hearing was, and blah, blah, blah. The three of them listened respectfully. I listened. Their conversation about getting rid of Obama was interrupted when the one’s haircut was finished, he paid, and left. I would have to wait only for one more haircut before it would be my turn. I basked in the fact that my opinion of barbers had been proven once again. I hoped for less conversation, but to no avail, as no sooner than the one customer left another enormously fat man entered. The three of them obviously knew each other and more conversation ensued. Predictably, I suppose, they covered the subjects of Obama’s questionable birth, whether he might be a Muslim, and their fear he would take away their guns. I couldn’t tell if they were truly concerned about Obama’s birth or religion but the fear of losing their guns was genuine and they believed it passionately.
What did I learn from this experience? First, I found it interesting that the entire conversation was only about Obama and defeating him. At no point did any one of these gentlemen say what it is the President had done they found so terrible (other than their fear of losing their guns). Nor was there any mention of any other topic, not jobs, not Iran, not Trayvon Martin, not contraception, only Obama, guns, and his raising the price of gasoline. I guess what I found the most interesting was their attitude towards reading the bill the Supreme Court was dealing with. Not only were they unconcerned that no one had actually read the bill, they seemed to agree that even expecting anyone, including Congress or the Court to read it, would be a terrible imposition. As the total age of these three must have been at least 180 to 200 years, I’m pretty certain that in all that time all of them together had probably not read 2700 pages of anything, so I thought their attitude was at least understandable. But why Scalia and the members of Congress and the Court would not be expected to read it I found incredible. I mean, what the hell do we pay these people for if not to read and understand the legislation they are engaged in? Similarly, although I can see how the “broccoli argument” might make sense to these dolts, I was appalled to learn that Scalia, if not the other justices, are apparently unable to tell the difference between broccoli and health care. Scalia was reported to be rather funny and the Court was apparently treating the question of health care with less than the seriousness that it should require. I found this terribly depressing. I mean, after all, the health care issue only affects millions and millions of citizens in a life or death matter, it hardly equates with broccoli, an absurd statement that should have been above even the partisanship of Scalia. Many seem convinced that Obamacare is doomed. I’m not so sure, you can’t really tell what the Court will do from the questions they ask.
I am beginning to wonder if this barber shop only specializes in men with huge bellies. I have never seen a child there, or even a young person. I once saw a woman. She was waiting for her husband to get his hair cut. Oh, and by the way, I have been worried about being a bit overweight and having a noticeable paunch, but compared to all of these guys I am positively svelte. Not only that, my barber told me I looked two weeks younger after my haircut. I’m sure he’s on to me.
It is a far, far better thing to have a firm anchor in nonsense than to put out on the troubled sea of thought.
John Kenneth Galbraith