Ep 27: Buss, The Redneck

Buss was a redneck, I suppose. Still, I want to be fair to father’s memory.

I called him Buss. My paternal grandfather demanded we call him Dad. So, Buss was sort of a leftover name—one he accepted to keep peace across the generations.

Buss no doubt voted against his economic self-interest—and against the interest of his kids’ futures—repeatedly. Were he still around for the 2016 election, I’m quite sure he would have pulled the lever for Donald Trump.

Late in the go-go 1920’s, Dad set Buss up in business. After succeeding for a time, however, his youthful dream crashed overnight. Buss and Dad lost everything.

Profound changes followed.

In desperation, he taught himself typing over a weekend, then won a scarce clerk job with the federal government. Pay was modest but it offered stability for his young family. One month in, however, Buss told off his supervisor, exited, and never looked back.

Pride and idealism made it far too painful for him to feed at the public trough, he told me. What a galvanizing image to describe government service; a pig being slopped at a trough.

I’m guessing his swaggering self-image was intertwined with various Ayn Rand characters from titles adorning our family’s small book shelf. Her self-help message to budding capitalists was this: at whatever cost—be a maker, not a taker. One Rand title, the Fountainhead, featured fictional architect Roark who destroyed his newly minted building rather than acquiesce to government construction regulations.

In his heart of hearts, Buss could have been Roark.

Eventually, he was reduced to selling cheap imported merchandise to farmers, from the trunk of his car. Later came the War, and still later—prosperity—and finally a solid union job as railroad brakeman. Stability was short-lived, however. He quit again, then started a five and dime store that failed before I headed off to college.

Perhaps his epithet should be this: Buss Sawyer earnestly pursued the Great American Dream—to become a self-made man, as he called it. He never made good on that dream, of course. Economically, he cratered.

Yes, he lived and died a redneck. Definitely, Buss Sawyer would have voted proudly for Donald Trump.

From Boulder, Colorado, this is Jim Sawyer for CapitalisminCrisis.org