Community Mural

In Prescott last weekend, I stopped at booth at an art fair to buy a decorative metal yard stake for a friend. I walked up to the checkout, handed the female vendor the stake and chatted her up, as I would just about anyone.

“Hey, thanks for this. Did you make them?” I pointed to the racks of metal stakes, most in the shapes of animals, starting to take a beautiful copper patina only a native Arizonan could truly appreciate. They were reasonably priced and kinda pretty in their own lawn-junk way.

“Yes,” she said. “Well, my husband and I do. We are from Casa Grande.”

“Oh, that’s great. Well, thanks again!” I was ready to leave when she then looked me right in the eye with a toothy grin and said, “Yeah. We built this company. No one else. It was just us.” She cackled after, which I’d guess is just how I remember it to make her seem even more ridiculous.

I stood there for a moment in silence, my brow furrowed. Was this woman seriously starting a political conversation with me in her art booth on this otherwise gorgeous day? Giant, white Ansel Adams clouds filled the blue heavens. Birds chirped. Dogs of all sizes and shapes dragged their owners along the nearby sidewalk. A folk band thumped a homemade cello on a nearby patch of emerald green lawn.

They built this company. No one else.

“Did you mean that politically?” I was still in doubt I’d heard her correctly.

She looked up, now with a bit of hesitation in her voice, said, “Yes.” She’d misjudged. While I’d guess this stance had helped with sales in Prescott, it struck me as unfriendly.

I’m cursed with a huge mouth and the nerve of the Cowardly Lion. I talk a huge game … the next day. Telling this woman exactly what I thought of her devisive additive to our otherwise pleasant interaction didn’t happen. Instead, I stomped off and told my friends, “Can you believe she said that to me? I mean, can you believe her?” I was full of unproductive indignation — the best sort.

Juliann shrugged. “Well? Did you say anything? Did you cancel the transaction?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“Um…”

Community Mural

Look, I sincerely don’t care where you — or the vendors of decorative metal yard stakes — land politically. But if we can’t agree that political sound bites taken out of context are nothing short of a waste of our time, we’re up a creek. And if we can’t agree that it takes a giant networked community to see the worst of students out of high school, and much more for those who go on to, say, start their own small business — we are in even bigger trouble. Up a ocean of indignant, unproductive rhetoric, perhaps.

You may not believe in higher tax rates to help the welfare of those less fortunate, or in healthcare as a right not privilege. But I’m going to venture a guess and say you didn’t teach yourself to read. Give yourself those immunizations that ended polio. Or, say, milk the cow to produce the dairy in your fridge right this very second.

It did take a community to get us here; we work best with cooperation and team work. And civility.

So, Mrs. Small Business Owner — I’m sorry I didn’t have the guts to say it in the moment, but no. You did not build all of this yourself. None of us did. Not even Martha Stewart, who I promise is way more skilled than either of us. Also, thank you for the yard stake. My friend loved it. Vote Obama, 2012. xo.

~K