Addressing a new minority crisis

There was a time in the history of this great nation, when hard-working men would take time to gather at the general store, sit on wooden crates, whittle large sticks down to smaller sticks, and disagree with each other’s opinions about what is, what was, and what never would have happened if any of them had been put in charge.

The era of congregating around the stove or pickle barrel in a dusty general store has passed, but the need for a place for men of opinion (read: cantankerous, argumentative, and/or full of themselves) to gather and complain has never ceased.

Leaning against the counter at the local hardware store, breaking bread around the big table in the middle of the diner, lingering around a barber shop, or hanging out in the corner of someone’s barn while passing around a bottle of “mule-kick” medicine have all taken their turn as revered sanctuaries of rigorous debate.

Convenience stores have replaced general stores. Big-Box Home Improvement stores have chipped away at local hardware stores. Fast-food chains have gobbled up homegrown diners. Urban sprawl has reduced the number of adequate barns available for use as gathering places. Our nation is facing a serious challenge. Our population has long been categorized, labeled, and tucked neatly into competing boxes branded “Rich” or “Poor,” “Baby-Boomer” or “Millennial,” “Blue” or “Red,” “Vegan” or “Consumer of Dead Animal Parts” — all with representatives advocating for better tax rates or better insurance rates (why isn’t anybody advocating for both?).

However, there is a group of individuals that has suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, ridden the roller coaster of life and refused to get off, made plenty of mistakes and learned from a few of them, and obeyed more laws than they’ve bent. This minority of Americans transcends racial, religious, and ethnic lines – with new members joining and leaving every day. This group should be known as the OOGs – Opinionated Old Guys.

These are not the Good-Old-Boys — the old men of established politics and wealth. These are the guys that have worked hard, honest, and offered good suggestions (that were ultimately ignored). These are the ones that knew the most about what was going on because they were right there, in the middle of it all, getting it done. These are folks with attitudes and opinions that can only be voiced in their natural habitat — a habitat that is shrinking. There are fewer hardware store counters, cleared out corners of barns, and other traditional places for these fine people to do what they were born to do — sit around and complain. It is a growing concern and should be a worry to all Americans. Without the safety of this natural habitat, without a protected environment for complaint and disgust, without the shelter and comfort of a place to vent and grouse — who knows where these Opinionated Old Guys may end up?

Without a plan to sustain their delicate environments, OOGs may soon be forced to migrate from their socio- eco-system confines of hardware stores/diners/barns and take to the wilderness of the streets. Outside of their natural habitat, the distinctive traits of OOGs might evolve from a tendency to grumble under their breath about how stupid our leaders are, to openly (and loudly) letting their displeasure be known. There could be unintentional consequences. An OOG might intermingle with fringe members of other socio-eco-systems and sway their thinking with — of all things — opinions (strong, and firmly held, opinions). Once members of other groups start to realize that they, too, have been harboring silent complaints about — well, just about anything over which they have no control — there could be cross-contamination of thought. Within a very short amount of time, there could be grumblers and complainers in every group.

OOGs could be the Asian Carp of grumbling.

If we don’t get this under control, we may be in big trouble. Who knows? We could end up with an out of control Opinionated Old Guy running for President!

 

Larry Wilson is a mostly lifelong resident of Niles. His optimistic “glass full to overflowing” view of life shapes his writing. His essays stem from experiences, compilations and recollections from friends and family. Wilson touts himself as “a dubiously licensed teller of tall tales, sworn to uphold the precept of ‘It’s my story; that’s the way I’m telling it.’” He can be reached at wflw@hotmail.com.

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