Midday Matinee is our people watching, people doing and people being feature. Join the Woodland Creatures for an afternoon break.

He collects disability and has insurance through Medicaid yet he claims to want the government to be less present in his life. He is very self-sufficient and could live off the land in ways that few of us could imagine. He is the person who first alerted me to the possibilities of mining in and around the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. He began with an open mind about the tradeoffs between mining jobs and environmental protection. He has moved to thinking we need the government to regulate mining companies before they ruin the water and the wilderness he loves.

Our conversations have spanned almost three years. In 2010 he voted for the first time in years, mainly to get me off his case. I told him that people who didn’t vote had lost their right to complain to me about ‘the government.’ Since he has some strong opinions on ‘the government’ and we both enjoy our conversations, he chose to vote.

The funny thing about this is that he has become a Fred Whisperer himself. He is now taking on the classic North Woods’ libertarians who tell each other that they don’t need the government. I have heard him say things like, “Well if you want to keep fishing and eating the fish you catch, you need the government to regulate the mining companies or the BWCA will look like the Gulf of Mexico.”

We have found some common ground. I have never confronted him on the obvious notion of his reliance on government for disability and health insurance being at odds with limited government. It is tempting but would be counterproductive. His awakening is a matter of lots and lots of conversations. It isn’t one ah ha conversion moment. It isn’t one clever line or piece of information that turned him around. It isn’t just talking about issues at election time.

Now, while it seems to be silly season on the right is a very good time to find yourself a few Freds and talk about the things that really matter to them. It is time to plant the seeds of our moral vision and to make connections that will bring it home for Fred. Don’t look for total agreement on every issue near and dear to you. Just look for the one or two issues that are important to your Fred. Pssst…now.

Reader Comments Welcome.