Hi, I’m Fred. I’m an average voter, 40 years old, married with one child, median income. I vote in the big elections, but I get busy and usually forget to vote in the other ones. I’m not in any party. I don’t have a big political vision. Just fix stuff. Please.(More)

Fred Whispering, Part IV – Fred Speaks (Non-Cynical Saturday)

This week Morning Feature discussed how to be more convincing progressive advocates – whispering to Fred, our archetypal median voter – with a primary focus on listening. Wednesday we role-played some examples based on President Obama’s Oval Office address. Thursday we considered why listening matters. Yesterday we explored the techniques of active listening. Today we return to role-playing, and I’ll ask you to consider the ideas we discussed this week as you reply to Fred.

The comments below are paraphrased from conversations I’ve had with Freds over the past few months. I personalized an archetypal Fred back in November and I’ll use that fictional character here, but each Fred is individual. The Fred comments here are typical, but by no means universal. The idea today is not to tell you what every Fred thinks. but to encourage you to ask the Freds you meet what they think, and to offer a practice conversation. With that in mind….

About the news:

I don’t watch the news much. For one thing, I’m busy. I work, driving a city bus, and then there’s family time. And something around the house always needs fixing. If it’s not the sink needing caulk it’s a sticky door or that switch on the dryer got bent so it won’t start or … well … something. I can’t afford to pay someone to fix most stuff, plus I like fixing things. It feels good. So between work and Mrs. Fred and the Fredling and fixing stuff, I don’t have much time to watch news.

Plus the news is just depressing. So much stuff that needs fixing and there’s usually nothing I can do about any of it. I do hear a lot of news though. The regulars on my bus and other places tell me about stories they’ve read or seen, and about things that happened to them. A lot of it is still depressing, but at least some is stuff I can try to help fix. Even if all I can do is listen or toss out an idea. And sometimes I can help in other ways. I fixed a lady’s garbage disposal last week. I knew how because I fixed mine last month, and it saved her calling a plumber she couldn’t afford. So that’s my news.

About the oil spill:

What a mess. I don’t know how they’re going to fix that. A plumber I know had an idea about slowly screwing some kind of cap on the pipe. He said that’s what he does, even with big underground pipes. I think they’ve already tried that and it didn’t work, but I said he should send his idea to the president. Even if his idea works, then they gotta clean up that mess. To me it seems stupid to drill those wells if they don’t know how to fix them and clean up if something goes wrong. But my cousin in Louisiana said that’s the only way to get enough oil now, because the rest is gone.

My cousin works at an oil refinery there. He says the town would pretty much shut down if the refineries closed. I wish we could stop using oil, but people gotta have jobs and a way to get to their jobs. I drive a bus, and I get a lot of folks to work every week. I’d have to find another job if we stopped using oil. I guess I could learn to drive one of those local trains, but my city doesn’t have them yet. I know we’re messing up the earth with all this oil, but I don’t know how to fix that.

About the government:

I know a lot of people who work in government. Several ride my bus. Some work for the city. Some for the state. Some for the feds. Office stuff. No bigwigs. They’re nice people, mostly. I met the mayor once. She rode my bus for a study she was doing. I wanted to ask her if they’re going to cut bus routes again, but I figured that would be a bad time. So I said hi. She said hi. She seemed nice. They’re still talking about cutting bus routes though, because the city has budget trouble. I get the budget trouble, but people need the buses to get to work. Plus it’s my job.

I don’t hate government. They do some stuff pretty well, and other stuff not so well. People make mistakes, including people in government. I just wish they’d do more to fix stuff. I don’t like taxes, but somebody has to pay for the stuff government does. I pay mine on time. I got a bigger refund this year, which was good because the washer broke and I couldn’t fix that. I guess you could say the government bought me a new washer, but it didn’t feel like that. It felt like I lost the vacation Mrs. Fred and I talked about for this summer. It wasn’t a big vacation. Just a few days. Maybe next year.

About the kids:

That’s the big thing for me. My daughter is amazing. She’s in public school, and mostly that’s okay but Mrs. Fred says the school budget might get cut again this year. If you want to talk about the schools, ask Mrs. Fred. She goes to all of the open houses and parent-teacher stuff because I’m at work. She says they keep cutting the budget every year. And the tests. The Fredling hates those tests. She does fine on them, but she says they go on forever and her teacher really stresses out over them.

What I want most is for my daughter to have the chances I had, and more. I didn’t make everything I could have of every chance I had, but I did okay. We squeak, but we get by. But I worry she won’t get those chances. I didn’t finish college, but I could at least get into college. I don’t know how I’ll afford that for her. And what jobs will be out there for her? Will we still be at war with someone, somewhere, like it seems we always are? What about the climate? The scientists say it will get bad if we don’t fix how we do things, but they’re not sure how bad or how soon. And how do we fix it?

About the big question:

That’s the big question. So many things breaking or broken, and how do we fix them? I try to fix the stuff I can fix. I guess that’s what we all have to do. Will that be enough? I don’t know. If government can help, it should. Or at least not break stuff.

I guess I do have a big political vision after all, and that’s it. Fix stuff, or at least don’t break it. Does that count?


Happy Saturday!