"See," he said with rising voice, "that's the snobbery, making other people feel guilty if they don't value what you value. You do it all the time."
"Sir," I said, disarmed by his rancor, "which of my columns bothered you?"
"All of them, blast it, all of them," he bellowed. "Last week you wanted us to enlist in the cause of property taxes. Before that, you insisted that cities and towns needed more taxing authority to stimulate economic growth.
"Another time you're telling us to improve our airports, the following week you want interstates made into toll roads. You tell us the data we have for decisionmaking is no good. You praise the governor for closing license branches, but say he didn't go far enough and should have closed even more.
"It's never enough for you." He paused, took a deep breath and continued. "Let me tell you that Indiana is pretty good for me and I don't see messing with it. It's OK with me if you're not satisfied and can't be satisfied. There are people like that. But why push your sickness, and that's what I think it is, onto others? Why try to make us feel guilty, that we should be organizing, marching and protesting in favor of your cause-ofthe-week?"
He stopped. I let the silence ripen. Then I responded. "Sir, I am glad to have aroused such passion in you. Now if you could just direct that energy toward something worthwhile rather than calling me to boast about your lack of involvement in the important matters of our times."
There was no sound at the other end of the line, so I continued. "You should feel guilty about your indifference to the problems of our state. You should feel most guilty about your failure to involve yourself in resolving those problems.
"Are you prepared to accept things as they are? Do you actually believe that life in Kirklin, Kouts and Kokomo is truly as good as it gets? You didn't tell me where you live, but whether it's Hammond, Huntington or Hamburg, it is a sad place. We have a poverty of spirit in this state that is as deleterious to the human condition as is material poverty."
"Listen, buster," he said in disgust, "the words you use are so unnecessarily uppity that they are 'deleterious to communication.'"
That last was said with deep disdain and I heard a click on the line.
Nothing like a happy reader to make the day complete.
Marcus taught economics more than 30 years at Indiana University and is the former director of IU's Business Research Center. His column appears weekly. To comment on this column, go to IBJ Forum at www.ibj.comor send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.