BY CLAYTON PATTERSON | In making decisions and choices regarding who I am and how I view the world, all I really have to reflect on are my own experiences.
As it turns out, I do have a connection to Mitt Romney. It starts with the fundraising speech he made that was caught on video: “There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing, to you-name- it… . These are people who pay no income tax. … [M]y job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
I was shocked by this statement. After all, Romney is a proud Mormon.
I had left home between grades nine and grade 10. Between grades 10 and 11, to make money, I worked on a farm in southern Alberta. I was the only worker for this sickly farmer. I did a lot of work. Instead of getting paid weekly I decided to survive on little, hold off and get all my money at the summer’s end. But after two months and two weeks of labor, I was given only $90. I was taken aback. The farmer said he would buy me a bus ticket to Calgary and I could go live back home. I said, ‘Keep the bus ticket,’ and I hitchhiked back to Calgary, but then turned around and hitchhiked back.
The farmer’s wife was a teacher in a nearby town. The population of the town and surrounding area was made up of mostly Mormons, as well as Mennonites and Japanese Buddhists. Neither the sickly farmer nor his wife were Mormon, but through them I had met a Mormon farmer who I considered to be a friend. When I hitchhiked back, I went to visit him.
I wanted to be in the same school as the sickly farmer’s wife. I wanted her to know I was back.
I ended up getting a job working for room and board with one of the poorest Mormon farmers in the community. My bed — not the room — was divided off with a curtain from the rest of the small space they lived in. To make money, I worked on this large commercial farm run by a powerful Mormon family. I went to the local school and lived like a Mormon. After I got up at 5 a.m., I milked the cows and did the chores and, like the other kids, in the early morning before school, I attended the classes on Mormonism. I learned a little bit about Mormons.
At that time I thought if I was ever going to be religious I would be a Mormon. I liked the community values I witnessed: How they took care of each other — and yes not everyone was equal, but equal enough to be a part of the whole. The bishop was a bigger deal than the guy I worked for. And yes there were kids with limited abilities in school that sometimes were the butt of jokes, but everyone belonged and everyone was important to the whole group. The Mormon community was made of the whole cross-section of a normal population. Some were well-off and others poor; there were the hardworking as well as the lazy. I was deep in the culture. I lived in a Mormon household, went to the school, dated the girls, went to the community dances, played on the soccer team, had friends, went to the early-morning program before school, went to temple. I was inside the community. An outsider, but living as an insider.
The Mormons had a community farm that everyone shared the work on. I worked on the farm and in fact won the bale-throwing contest. All the profits from this farm were put into a reserve to deal with community problems. If a family with a limited income couldn’t afford a needed specialized medical treatment, the temple picked up the balance. There was shame — the support was expected.
In this life there is no utopia. One guy at the high school played the bully, except with me. I got into a fight with him. Got pulled into the principal’s office in the end. I quit eleventh grade and hitchhiked back to Calgary. I never became a Mormon, but without question, I appreciated many of their values, like how they treated and respected each other: No matter what the income or social status, everyone was equal enough. They were dedicated to their religious beliefs, honest, hardworking people who shared what they had. They had strong family values. They didn’t have any kind of stimulants or intoxicants in the community — no coffee, no Coca-Cola, no alcohol. They helped people in need outside of their community. They were in complete support of small, self-run, independent businesses. I never witnessed anything unsavory. I liked the people.
I could not imagine those people going in and bankrupting and selling off a business for profit, à la Romney and Bain Capital. Instead they would have supported and tried to save the business. I could not imagine them writing off almost half the American population because the people are struggling.
Romney has lost contact with the Mormon values, or at least all the goodness I witnessed within that Alberta farming community. He has no concept what the term “We The People” means.