November 14, 2008

Meet the “Selfish Parasites”

Kevin Gutzman, after denouncing American cars as “notably inferior” to foreign cars, now describes autoworkers hoping for a federal loan to the Big Three as “selfish parasites.”  Since, with the exception of Gutzman’s vitriol, this debate has been a little abstract so far, I decided it might be time to make it more concrete and introduce you to some of Gutzman’s “selfish parasites.”

Foremost among them, I suppose, must be my brother-in-law, a supervisor at a Ford engine plant.  He is the sole breadwinner for my sister and their five (soon to be six) children, and doesn’t want to lose his job and hopes the loan goes through.  Having known Mike for over 20 years, I can attest that “selfish parasite” is the phrase that first comes to mind when I think of how he has worked hard to provide for his family, sought to further his education by getting an MBA while he was in the Navy and recently completing Six Sigma statistical training, and of how he helps my sister in home-schooling their kids so they can receive a wholesome and moral education.  I think, too, of those years when Ford was booming and Mike, like other plant supervisors, was expected to routinely work 7 days a week, 12 hours a day, for months on end. A typical lazy American, obviously.  Mike’s particular job is so demanding that Ford likes to hire former military men into it, since they have a better track record of being able to handle the hours.  Mike is a former submariner, and his friends at Ford include a former Army Ranger, a West Point grad, another former submariner, and a former nuclear engineer on a Navy surface ship.  “Selfish parasites” all, I say.

Then there is my sister, who doesn’t want to uproot her family and is worried about what will happen to the family finances if they have to sell their house into a depressed housing market, which will become a collapsed housing market in Metro Detroit if the Big Three go under.  She doesn’t want her children to be separated from my parents, who now live a five minute walk away but may end up living thousands of miles away if Mike loses his job and they need to move.  (No one is going to be getting new jobs in Meto Detroit if the Big Three go under).  She doesn’t want to leave the friends they’ve made, particularly at church, a wonderful parish with a young, dynamic, orthodox priest who has already inspired a half dozen men to go into the seminary, where my sister has served as a lector and taught CCD,  and whose parishioners probably will be scattered to the four winds if the Big Three collapse.  Who cares?  They’re all “selfish parasites,” after all.

Then there is my Dad, a former mechanical engineer who spent virtually his entire career at GM, first with Terex in Cleveland, and then in Detroit at the Warren Tech Center after Terex went into bankruptcy.  My Dad actually took pride in his job and his company and is among the smartest men I know, but the rest of us know he should be punished for helping to design those “notably inferior” cars Gutzman talks about.  My Dad taught me many things, including love for God and country and my fellow countrymen, but is now concerned about what a collapse of his former company might mean for the pension he worked for and counted on all those years.  (He already lost his retiree health care earlier this year).  Typical “selfish parasite” behavior. My Mom is concerned, too, but you know how those “selfish parasites” tend to stick together.

Then we come to me.  I am a lawyer, and have never made a dime from the Big Three, even though I have driven their “notably inferior” cars my entire career.  (True, a friend is still driving my ‘96 Monte Carlo, with 205,000 miles, and my nephew now has my ‘99 Grand Prix, with 150,000 miles, but those cars must not have gotten the memo that they are the “notably inferior” products of “selfish parasites”).  I am worried about my family and my community, which will be hurt by a collapse of the Big Three, though not as badly as Detroit will be hurt.  If I want to avoid becoming a “selfish parasite” myself, I must learn to toughen up and stop worrying about my family and my community, and join Kevin Gutzman’s brave chorus denouncing American autoworkers and the cars they make.

But I don’t think I will do that, because the conservatism I believe in values family, faith, community, tradition, and country, and I value those things more highly than I do any abstract ideology, including Gutzman’s libertarian ideology.  As I wrote for this site in April, that ideology “encourages Americans to disdain their countrymen and adulate foreigners, to place economic considerations above loyalty to place or people, and . . .punishes people who are rooted and bound by love to the place of their birth and rewards those willing to leave behind family and friends to pursue the dollar wherever it may take them.”  I hope that I never come to view fellow Americans who do not want to see their jobs vanish, their communities disintegrate, and their families broken apart by the need to move as “selfish parasites.”

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