The stop motion animation Christmas television special “Rudolf the Red-Nosed
Reindeer” debuted in 1964. My favorite part of this timeless television special is the “Island of Misfit Toys,” where unwanted playthings with some sort of physical error or flaw go to live until the island’s ruler, a brown winged lion named King Moonracer, manages to find homes for them. The unwanted playthings were dolls with 2 left arms, toys with broken voice box strings, and defective toys that
fail to meet the mainstream expectation of physical form. BAKER Drivetrain is very much like the “Island of misfit toys” in that our employees (including Lisa and I) are all odd in one way or another. As a matter of fact, we encourage weird behavior and off-color personal expression. We don’t have many rules but we are all bonded together in a weird way, like characters in a David Lynch film, to kick ass and make quality American made products.
One of the few rules we have is “thou shalt not discuss politics, religion, or oil” with customers. People have extremely strong deep-rooted opinions on these three subjects and you just can’t sway their opinions. People have gotten downright angry when we offer a viewpoint that challenges their established beliefs. Opinions are like sphincters; everyone has one. Tattoos, ear wax, sadomasochism, bestiality, Sponge- Bob Squarepants, and many other subjects
are always on the table for discussion with anybody at our company and we are never shy about expressing our views; but politics, religion, and oil are taboo.
Transmission and primary drive oil may not seem as relevant as politics or religion but in our business you would be surprised. People have strong convictions about oils based on lifelong experiences. Sometimes those experiences are legit and sometimes they are ludicrous but we don’t get into that. We have recommended oils that we advise customers about if they are willing to listen.
The closer I get to politics in America the more confused I get so I choose to stand back from the whole process. I’ve gone through periods in my life where I pay attention to the hot-button bickering between the Republicans and Democrats and it drives me nuts and makes me lose faith in our political process. Then I stand back from all the in-fighting and our political process seems to be a beautiful check-andbalance system that yields the best country in the world and the best country in the history of the world. So I choose to kick back with a cold beverage and just watch.
Then there’s religion and I’m really confused about this one. My mother was brought up in south Georgia in the Bible belt and attended a Southern Baptist church where God wields fire and brimstone to punish the bad people. So I was raised in this environment, as a military brat, and to go to church every Sunday
because if you don’t, God will punish you. I moved out of my parents’ house when I was 18 and for the past 32 years I’ve given this angry God every reason to strike me down—and he hasn’t. Believe me; I’ve worked really hard at this one. So maybe he’s not angry at all; maybe he likes to party and have a good time. Then again maybe I’m finally going to be struck down by lightning for writing these words in this Iron-Works column; stay tuned. And then there’s the gasoline- and-matches combination of mixing politics and religion. I can’t believe our forefathers had the insight and kahunas to insist on the separation of church and state. Back then, I’m sure it was borderline heresy. Blending politics and religion to propagate personal and political agendas has yielded more suffering and death than anything in the history of the world.
So did I just violate my own rule about discussing politics, religion, and oil? No way; this is a magazine column, not a two-way conversation. If I’ve offended you, I’m sorry. If you think I’m a wacko, take a number and stand in line. If I don’t have any hard-line convictions on religion, politics, and oil, am I a bad American? I don’t think so. You can believe in whatever you want to believe in but let me call my own shots. I love our country, lifestyle, freedom, economic system, military dominance, and lack of censorship (thank you Larry Flynt). I would die for this country in a minute. Despite all the sphincters and all the opinions in this country, this is the best country in the world and you can’t tell me any different.