“We have met the enemy and he is us.” ~Pogo, title character in the long-running comic strip by Walt Kelly (1913-1973)
Pogo combined sophisticated wit and slapstick physical comedy. It helped articulate the human condition and the foibles of mankind.
Today we hear ad infinitum that our political system in Washington is broken. The people who have been elected to serve the people’s interest, decide what is best for the country, and govern like critically thinking individuals are in actuality bought and paid for by special interests and advance a very corrupt agenda.
Kelly’s title character, Pogo Possum, is very much the everyman of the Okefenokee swamp he lives in, and maintains his personable and humble nature even in the face of neighbors motivated by selfishness who wish to take advantage of him at every turn. Welcome to the new vision for America, where the vast majority of good and trusting people are told every day to accept mediocrity and to let their America become the sole possession of the very rich and powerful to do with as they please.
This has never been more evident than in the politics of self-aggrandizement practiced by the Republican Party in 2011. While the examples of this are plentiful just a few speak volumes.
We saw last month the United States of America being held hostage by the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party which was, incredibly, rooting for this country to default on its debts. Even today candidate Michele Bachman says she would not have raised the debt ceiling and that she remains opposed to the compromise that eventually prevented default.
The next casualty is short- and long-term help for the middle class. The bulwark of American society since World War II, the middle class is now hurting from high unemployment, flat wages, and disappearing voices for their interests in the beltway.
With the presidential election just 15 months away, Republicans will use the national deficit as kryptonite to try and defeat any jobs program offered by the White House. The return of a Republican to the presidency hinges on the malaise and discontent of the working people of this country — the base that brought victory in 2008 to the Democrats. With no concern for the damage being inflicted on our economy and the U.S. electorate, the Republicans’ myopic strategy for winning is firmly in place.
And finally, in menacing the great public projects this country cherishes, from its highway systems, to the power grids, to the National Parks that adorn our landscape, the G.O.P. has given us maybe the most cause for dismay and melancholy. The rhetoric from the right wing is dogmatic “We are broke and we (we being the American people) must expect less.
This has become a defining moment in the American political theater. A message not of American spirit, innovation, and self-determination in our future but one that speaks of our past as being nothing but reckless spending, our present as a time to avoid rather than solve the problems we face, and our future as a long arduous road with little hope or betterment for the “everyman” of tomorrow.
The Republican Party is entrenched in the belief that infra-structure, modern technology, and education must take a back seat to an antiquated fiscal ideology. They will demonize compromise and “out of the box thinking” as a liberal conspiracy, and they are willing to see the natural treasures of this nation, including the National Parks estabished by Republican President Teddy Roosevelt, closed or understaffed at a time when people need to be reminded what great beauty this country is blessed with.
A poster bearing Walt Kelly’s words “We have met the enemy and he is us” was created for the first Earth Day in 1971. Those words can easily be applied not only to poor environmental policies but to political discourse that refuses to listen to an idea from anyone labeled as liberal; or that ignores a true conservative position of holding the people in power accountable to spend responsibly.
In Pogo, many of the swamp residents want Pogo to run for President against his will. Too many Americans today want to hold back when it comes to political participation; we will be ushering in an Age of Mediocrity if we choose to stand idly by.