October 29, 2008

"I will vote always for best, always:" Conversations with Paul

The dyed-finger idea could go a long way to eliminating voter fraud in America.

[Note: In the last week or so, I've heard -- here and elsewhere -- some defeatist carping about "not voting." Worse still is the plan of voting for someone you think is bad in order to make the country worse so that, at some moment in time, it learns from the experience. Both poses -- and poses they are -- strike me as malicious and childish. And I think of this conversation with Paul on Election Day in 2004. He knew what faction and party politics brought. He knew it from hard experience.... ]

Once a week Paul and his sister come to my house to clean it. They're recent arrivals to America from Russia and work at cleaning houses in order to support themselves and take courses at night at Irvine's community college. They're part of a larger group of Russians that live, not in the astronomically expensive beach towns along Southern California's solid gold coast, but inland where life is considerably cheaper.

Every Tuesday Paul and his sister arrive in a beat-up old Toyota, haul their vacuums and supplies in and set to work with a single-minded thoroughness at their job. They're in and out in an hour and off to another house. If they're ever feeling down, I've never seen it. They're pleased to be working and they work hard.

Paul's sister has better English than he does. His is spotty to say the least, but it improves. We all try to spend a few minutes talking in English since they are keen to learn the vernacular. We once spent 45 minutes going over the inflections of "Too cool for school," "Whatever," and the inner meaning of "Know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em." I like to think I'm giving them insights into English not available in the classroom.

But this is Laguna Beach, a latter-day hippie stronghold of liberal socialists griping as they sit in homes with an average value of $1,300,000, and so Paul and I don't ever speak of politics. Until election day this week.

Paul and his sister, both in their late 20s, come from a country where they learned in childhood that politics can be, well, a touchy subject. They clean houses for their living and hence might be thought of by some as, well, less than "acceptably intelligent." They never struck me that way, but I know from conversations here and there about my smug and self-satisfied town, how much the population values "intelligence" as measured in testable IQ -- which, as an article of faith, the population claims not to believe in. "Intelligence" to these souls is measured not in IQ points per se but in party allegiance. Much simpler than a test you see. Very simple: Democrat = "Intelligent," Republican = "Dumb." This is not a scientific question, you understand. It is a religious belief. Yet, they are all so smart they cannot see this -- even now.

Paul, my English challenged house cleaner is smart enough to see this shadow religion of his employers and, what's more, smart enough to be very careful about discussing politics. After all, one false move in Laguna Beach and he might be out of all his jobs. Not that he couldn't replace them, but who needs the aggravation?

So I was surprised last Tuesday when I was standing in the laundry room of my home and Paul entered to say, "The election, today, right?"

"That's right. The election is today," I said and waited.

"You vote?"

"Always. It is the fundamental duty," I said dropping quickly into the pompous lecture, "of an American to vote. Your one duty above all others."

"I will be American by the next election and I will vote always."

"Great." And then it got sort of quiet.

After a long moment of just looking carefully at my face, Paul said, "So.... who you vote?"


He smiled and relaxed. "Good. Very good. I would too and will when I can vote. I will vote always."

"He won't get to run again."

"Oh, yes. I remember. But I will still vote."

"Really. For who, the Democrat or the Republican?"

He looked at me and thought about it.

"Not for either. I will vote always for best, always. In Russia when I was small there it was always the party this and this..."

"This and that..."

"Yes. But I don't like the Party. I think. I think I must vote for best."

"Did I vote for the best, Paul?"


"Why do you think so?"

"Because he makes freedom. He does not say freedom only, but makes freedom. In my country, a lot of people say things of freedom and make nothing."

"So you think the war for Iraq is good?"

"Yes, very good for them I think. Here I think, people do not like the war that makes freedom."

"I think you're right."

"But they do not know. They have too much too long. Me, I remember first no freedom and then freedom quick. When freedom came I knew what I wanted in it."

"What was that?"

"To come here. To be here. Quick to America."

"Why so quick?"

He shook his head and looked at me as if I was the one who didn't understand English.

"Because in Russia, freedom can go away. In America never. Never, if I vote always for best."

Posted by Vanderleun at October 29, 2008 7:20 PM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

"Because in Russia, freedom can go away. Here never."

Would that it were the case.

I am sure that up until the end many Romans felt that the empire would never die. Rome fell. Not because of the barbiarians, but rather from the rot that ate away its core, and left it a hollow shell of the Leviathan which remained unmatched for centuries.

Posted by: FH at November 4, 2004 4:42 PM

I've never posted here before, but this really touched me. Every time I hear a story like this it makes me proud to be an American. Thank you so much for sharing.

Posted by: Carolynn at November 4, 2004 6:00 PM

Beautiful, and very moving.

"Because in Russia, freedom can go away. Here never."

Paul is right.

"But I don't like the Party. I think. I think I must vote for best."

A very wise man!

Thanks for posting this.

Posted by: Asher Abrams at November 4, 2004 6:54 PM

Great story. I hope all Americans couldhave the same wisdom as Paul. Its my experience that Americans pay lip service to their freedoms because they are not aware of what they enjoy. Having lived overesas for many years I rejoice everyday when I packed in my former job and was able to live in the US. Because every day I can enjoy running water, a choice of news sources, an abundance of choices due to a free market and the freedom to express my opinions without fear. Try doing this overseas. Even Britain has collapsed and is dominated by a PC thinking that is so strong that you can be arrested for thought crime or attempting to defend yourself.

Posted by: Thomas J. Jackson at November 4, 2004 7:30 PM

Outstanding story! But you've made us a promise now, and you have to keep it. The subtitle is ConversationS with Paul, so I'm already waiting for the next episode.

Posted by: slimedog at November 4, 2004 9:46 PM

Thanks for sharing this. I don't know whether it's true or not but it ought to be.

Posted by: Dave Schuler at November 5, 2004 7:45 AM

I assure you it is. And what's more, it is probably true millions of times over. All over. Had a similar experience in New York with a programmer from the Ukraine who worked with me. Fellow by the name of Lev. My barber in Brooklyn Heights, Tanya, (material girl that she was) felt the same way and was not shy about sharing it -- especially with a pair of scissors in her hand. Come to think of it the entire hair salon was part of her brigade.

Posted by: Gerard Van der Leun at November 5, 2004 8:44 AM

"Always vote for best!" -- That's a good slogan.

Posted by: Stephen B at November 5, 2004 9:39 AM

Let us keep in mind that it is indeed possible for us to lose our freedom. Thiscan happen gradually through the "temporary" restrictions on citizens rights and the enlargement of government's role in our lives in the form of "oversight". While people scoff at the aclu litigation over small intrusions into our lives, and the gradual but pernicious ramping up of the judicial system,we should all be alarmed at what this may become in terms of our privacy and individual rights twenty years from now.

Posted by: Flannelputz at November 5, 2004 6:36 PM


The ACLU has done some good thru the years, but firemen decorating their home away from home for the holidays is not Congress making a law regarding the establishment of religion, and stopping them from doing so reduces my freedom. Furthermore, any organization which claims to defend the Bill of Rights which won't lift a finger for the Second Amendment is simply bogus.

Posted by: triticale at November 5, 2004 8:48 PM

Nancy's from Ecuador. She, with various of her relatives and employees also from Ecuador, cleans my house wonderfully well. Her husband has worked 2 jobs most of the 15 or so years they've lived here in CT. Nancy is building her first new house. Nancy is spending $700K on that house. She knows what taxes do to her business. She works very hard, expecting to provide for her two kids. Nancy is very smart and loves her new country, but doesn't yet know she's a Republican. Her husband and brother know they are. She'll figure it out.

Posted by: Just Thinkin' at November 5, 2004 9:53 PM

This is why immigration is so important to the health of this country. It acts, if our laws are enforced and we don't corrupt the prcoess with PC-driven quotas, as a sort of DNA booster shot, adding new and enthused citizens to the country to counteract the rot that seems to afflict those amongst us that take America for granted.

Posted by: CAM at November 6, 2004 4:18 PM

Thanks, that made my day. You do good work.

Posted by: Carl H at February 10, 2008 4:29 PM

We live in a 2 party system and the good eggs spouting "I vote for the man" don't get it. There comes a time to grow up and hatch. Voting for the "best" man gets you the whole coalition that backs that party. When you vote for the dem, you get the NEA, ACLU, affirmative action, higher taxes, more regulation, reduced military, wacky liberal judges, partial birth abortion,... The list goes on and on. The dems could run RR and I'd still vote republican.

Hell, I'm voting for McCain.(did I just write that??)

Posted by: MM at February 10, 2008 5:46 PM

That's a very potent argument, Gerard, and I'm speaking as someone who isn't open to it at all. Well done.

Posted by: Morgan K Freeberg at February 11, 2008 9:55 AM

That argument would hold a lot more water if it were true. Of course, it isn't; "best" in this context really means "best of a rotten bunch". And has meant that for a very long time, and not just in the USA. "Rotten" means incompetent, corrupt and/or stupid, and often all three.

"Those who can, do; those who can't, teach; and those who can't teach, enter politics or the law".

Those who would do the job well don't want it. I have heard it said that the best way to get good government is to drag good people kicking and screaming into their offices, and give them time off for good behaviour. I have a great deal of sympathy for that idea.

Posted by: Fletcher Christian at February 11, 2008 3:17 PM

Obama, because this time communism will free.

Posted by: twolaneflash at October 30, 2008 10:35 AM

"They have too much too long." A lot of wisdom in a few words.

If things really go sour, economically and financially, I wonder what it will do to the younger generation, so many of whom consider it a genuinely grievous injury if they aren't able to text message their friends whenever they want.

Posted by: ELC at October 30, 2008 4:28 PM

Reminds me of a story I once heard about a friend of an acquaintance of mine. Not where where the friend was from, but he was older and could never quite get his arms around the English language. One phrase he know well and would pronounce emphatically was, "I love America!", and apparently it was quite clear that he did love America.

The time came to become a citizen and because of the language problem, he had failed to complete all the requirements. So, there was a hearing, perhaps it was the final hearing -- I don't remember the details. When the judge queried him he smiled and adamantly proclaimed, "I love America!".

The upshot was that the judge granted him his citizenship.

Posted by: E-man at October 31, 2008 2:45 PM