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National Editorials & Columns

Porter: Those who are steadfast are always a study

I have a friend named Eddie who we call “T.H.” on account of his thick-headedness. Once an idea gets inside that dense skull of his, its embedded like an ancient fossil but not as interesting.

It makes me wonder how people get to be so steadfast in indefensible concepts. Eddie’s illogical conclusions don’t extend too much farther than he can see and tend to center around a theme that people in general are idiots.

For instance, we were making small talk the other day and the subject of potholes came up. I commented that the harsh winter had played havoc on our streets. Under his interrogation, I explained how water seeps underneath the pavement and continually freezes and thaws.

Nah, he said. The guys who installed the material were idiots. They didn’t put it in right, he concluded.

I conceded that shoddy workmanship can make a difference but that the installer can’t be held accountable for the weather or even the materials for that matter. But when it comes down to it, Mother Nature does what she wants to do.

Nah, he said. Roadwork always goes to the low bidder, he said. And the low bidder, by his estimation, is always incompetent.

Well, you do get what you pay for, I said. But even the low bidders have to have certain qualifications and they typically aren’t the ones who choose the materials being used. You can’t pin something like that on one subset. If humans are to blame, aren’t all those involved culpable?

Nah, he said. He went so far as to suggest that if the materials aren’t suitable then the installers need to speak up and say so. It didn’t make sense, but it didn’t need to.

You see, he had an idea stuck in his head, and he had no intention of letting it go. He had decided who was right and who was wrong and no amount of explanation was going to dissuade him. The steel door in his brain trap had slammed shut.

Our conversation moved on to the subject of education and his conclusion was just as quick and firm. Kids today, he said, are idiots.

We talked about teaching methods, parental involvement, school district policies, state mandates and federal requirements. However, he had made a blanket statement and was plenty comfy within it.

Nah, he said. Kids are idiots.

I got a little irritated at him. Truth be told, I was mad. I decided that it was time to tell T.H. a thing or two. Enlighten him as to the pitfalls in his logic. I challenged him, derided him, taunted him, begged, pleaded, beseeched. He was wrong, and I made it my mission that day to prove to him that he was wrong.

When I had exhausted my supply of tools, I had to sit down and catch my breath. I give up, I said. You’re impossible.

He looked down at me quizzically. “You don’t get it, man,” he said. “It’s simple. Quit trying to complicate it. You can lead a horse to water all day long but you can’t make him drink. When it comes down to it, kids are just idiots.” I think that’s when I passed out.

“Did you ever think, T.H.” I said when I awoke, “That maybe you’re the idiot?”

He reached down and grabbed my arm to help me up. “You’re just figuring that out?” he asked. “Heck, I knew that a long time ago.”

That’s when it occurred to me that the horse I had been leading to the trough was Eddie. I feel like such an idiot.

• David Porter can be reached at

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