Tuesday, December 29, 2009

"We Have Met the Enemy…and He Is Us!”

Pogo the Swamp Possum in Walt Kelly’s great comic strip that ran from 1948-1975 parodied Commodore Perry’s famous message in 1813 after the Battle of Lake Erie: “We have met the enemy…and they are ours!”

After ruminating about the insatiable desire of Americans to buy cheap underwear from China and our overspending at the federal level which has since put us into a dangerous debtor status with the same nation, some of our readers got us to thinking about some other odd contradictions in modern American life where, in essence, “we” are our own worst enemy, just as Pogo opined.

And since this is the time of year when we all make New Year's resolutions and 'swear to do better next year!', maybe it is a good time to think about where we are as a society collectively and individually.

We think we can do better, all of us as individuals and as a national community. We know we can. We simply have to.

Seriously, is there any problem out there that is really and truly ‘someone else’s fault’, as we like to think and hope so we can ‘blame them’ for all of our current troubles?  Is there some ‘boogeyman’ out there, either here in America or overseas that we can just fix blame to and direct all of our anger for the public policy problems we now face?

We assert that the basic laws of classical supply-and-demand apply to maybe 99.9% of our problems since we Americans typically ‘demand’ to have it all now, regardless of the implications or costs down the line, unlike every other generation of Americans that has preceded us. It just doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense to us, to be honest about it.

Surely there are some external culprits we can blame such as Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda but here are some that might not be 'their' fault, whoever 'they' might be:

  1. The drug crisis would disappear if we and our children stop using cocaine and marijuana for recreational purposes.  Drug pushers don’t force it down our throats; we willingly buy it and use it and talk about it as if it was something to be proud of.
  2. ½ of all health care costs in America, over $1 trillion per year, would disappear overnight if we collectively would lose 25% of our body weight with better diets, cessation of smoking, stop excessive use of alcohol and start exercising.  If you hate the trial lawyers for holding up tort reform or the big insurance companies for 'gouging' the public, maybe we should stop eating Ho-Hos and Fritos (mea culpa) and drinking so many soft drinks (yikes!) while smoking and drinking cases of beer on the weekend. (Stop it! I can't take any more criticism!) You’d be amazed how much smaller our health care costs might become in the near future.
  3. We could probably send the Saudi sheiks and Al Qaeda to the unemployment line if we all drove Priuses that got 60 mph or drove advanced diesel cars instead of the monstrous SUVs that get what, 12 mph on a good day?  We still have the freedom to choose what size car we want to drive but we can't complain about the Saudis if we do drive the gas-guzzlers.  Is there any wonder they have us over a barrel of oil today?
  4. What gives us the ‘unalienable right’ as declared in our precious Declaration of Independence to be ‘dependent’ on the government for anything, from entitlement program spending to special tax breaks for wealthy corporations or individuals? We don't mind helping out people in need or in medical distress who need help but does everyone in America need assistance from the government nowadays?
  5. Are we ‘for’ huge subsidies for Medicare to ‘help’ senior citizens, like we all hope we are going to be one day, or are we just doing it so we don’t have Grandma and Grandpa move in with us so we have to take care of them? (they took care of us growing up, didn’t they?)
  6. Is it fair to proclaim that we ‘hate’ illegal immigrants and want to send them all back to Latin America when, at the same time we hire them, without asking for their immigration papers beforehand, to put an addition on our mansions (by the world’s standards) for 1/3 of the market cost, take care of our landscapes and nanny our children, all for a fraction of the cost of hiring ‘legal’ American citizens?
  7. Is it right to be railing against the social mores of other people in our communities, most of whom we do not personally know, when there are dysfunctions in our own families, in mainline and evangelical churches as well as non-churchgoing families?  Trying to get the speck or log out of someone else's eyes is awfully hard to do under any circumstance.
  8. Shouldn’t we be doing a better job of teaching our own children about the faiths we choose and the morals we want them to adopt by teaching them and showing them what they mean in the sanctity of our own homes?  Do we really want to believe that is the duty and responsibility of underpaid and overworked professionals in the public school system to teach all of our kids good manners if they don't see it at home?
  9. Do we really want 'freedom' and 'free enterprise' or do we want some sort of national guaranteed insurance program to pay for all of our mistakes and poor decisions through congressional action?  We can't have it both ways...somewhere along the line, we have to decide which way we want our country to go: capitalism or socialism, take your pick.
We know there are some things going on that we really cannot control and truly are beyond our means to influence and change.  Human nature, for one, is so tricky and when you throw in international and cross-cultural differences, that makes for a Rubik’s Cube of infinite variations to solve.

But can we accept the fact that most of our current problems facing us as a nation are self-inflicted wounds caused by our own conflicting desires?

Pogo the Possum might say it is. He might also say we can do better because we have to, starting in 2010. We think we can do it. Don't you?


  1. Excellent piece! I never cease to be amazed at how we Americans have not sense of sacrifice even when it's good for us. We get outraged when we have to change our behavior, even when it's obviously the best way to fix something. We seem to want the government, or a political party, or our employer, or anyone else but us to make it all better.

    Then to top it all off, we then don't want to be help accountable for our actions. We don't want to pay the piper down the road. And inevitably, it costs far more to fix it later than it would have to be fixed at the source.

    And this applies to individuals - who want free healthcare rather than make smarter health choices (liberals) or great roads and secure borders without paying taxes (conservatives); to companies who want to socialize costs to maximize profits (which is a subsidy); to politicians who seek re-election in the short term and are never held accountable in the longer term.

    But in the end the most powerful thing is personal choice, responsibility and accountability. And unfortunately, we seem to have lost that.

    So I would challenge everyone to make 10 smarter choices for 2010 (get it 10 in 2010). Don't just consider price, or convenience or short-term expediency. Rather, consider the full impact of your decisions on yourself, your community and your environment. Walk to the store, down-size your food intake (have you seen the portion sizes in fast food restaurants and convenience stories - geez), don't shop at Wallmart, shop local, carpool, slow-down, etc.

    But most of all stop bitching and do something!

  2. Thanks, Mark.

    You would think being a responsible person would be just a given but it is not. We all make mistakes but do we have to keep doing them every single day?


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