Don't let Pogo be right
Date: Thursday, September 25, 2008 @ 06:52:45 EST
Topic: Opinion


Don’t Let Pogo Be Right

In the early 70’s a poster created for Earth Day 1970 had the cartoon character Pogo claiming “We have met the enemy, and he is us,” referring in that case to the impacts of litter, toxic waste and the senseless trashing of our planet.

The origin of the quote was in the foreword to cartoonist Walt Kelly’s book ‘The Pogo Papers’ in which he wrote, “There is no need to sally forth, for it remains true that those things which make us human are, curiously enough, always close at hand. Resolve then, that on this very ground, with small flags waving and tinny blast on tiny trumpets, we shall meet the enemy, and not only may he be ours, he may be us. Forward!” Kelly’s work garnered international attention and was often viewed as one of the best commentaries on the foibles of mankind and the human condition.

Today, I believe that Pogo’s infamous quote is truer than ever. We see it in the divisiveness of the political arena; we see it in our instability of our economy and we see it in our relationships in our communities as well as across the globe.

I believe that we become our own worst enemy when we look to some single individual outside ourselves, to be our savior, someone to have all the answers. We collectively look to our particular presidential candidate for president as being the lone hope, the only one with the solutions, the lone light in the darkness. Perhaps even worse, we look at those candidates that we don’t support as the antithesis to all of those expectations. And, while neither is the truth, we act and vote as if they are.

Logically we would say that no one person is the answer to all of our problems, and yet at our collective subconscious we seem to look for just that. We avoid looking in the collective mirror of our nation and searching the soul of our reflection. Instead we look away and, in so doing, we turn against each other. The war, the economy, even global warming is someone else’s fault. Yes, President Bush initiated the war and the Patriot Act; and yes, Wall Street was greedy and propelled us down the slippery slope towards economic meltdown; and yes, corporations have been lazy and not responded to signs that we were corrupting our planet, using too many resources, etc. These things are all true, but where were we when this was all happening? We were sitting back and watched as the President told us that there were weapons of mass destruction, and we collectively believed him, we didn’t go to the streets in protest as rights were taken away with the inception of the Patriot Act.

We sat back and watched as ads came on the TV, over the radio and in print singing the praises of Zero Interest Mortgages. And even though we all know the phrase ‘there’s no such thing as a free lunch’, did we stand up and say ‘NO, this is insanity!’? No, we didn’t. We were just too busy earning a living, trying to capture the American dream, even when it was outside of our financial grasp; we were even too busy being busy to pay attention to all the warning signs that our collective greed was going to destroy everything we believe to be true and good about our nation. There have been some who have taken a stand and have spoken out, but their patriotism has been lost in the white noise of our business. As a result we are well on our way to the collapse of our nation as we perceive it to be.

We say that we want change, in fact we demand it from our politicians. The candidates all promise us change, even the incumbents. You know, the ones who promised change two years ago, four years ago, eight and more. We’ve gotten change alright: the economy is failing, our education system is slipping behind that of China and India, our health insurance system is failing some of our most fragile citizens, we are behind the eight ball when it comes to the environment and global warming, and we are losing our self-respect as a country as well as that of our global neighbors. What we don’t recognize is that just like the answers don’t come from without, but from within, neither does change come from without. Until we ourselves change our behaviors, our leaders won’t be able to deliver change.

We say that we want experience, but we second guess every move someone with ‘experience’ has made; in football terms, we “Monday morning quarterback.” All after the fact. We demand experience, but we forget the old adage about never making a mistake if you never do anything. It isn’t how many mistakes a person has made that will make them a good leader or not. It is how they have learned and grown from those mistakes. If you want a leader with experience (one who will also help bring about change), you’re going to have to accept one who has made mistakes, but has learned from them, and grown.

It all sounds so complicated doesn’t it? But it really isn’t. It is as simple as choice. And we do have some major choices ahead of us (no, I don’t mean Obama or McCain). I mean the choice of success vs. failure, of accountability vs. a ‘get out of jail free card, of engagement vs. denial, of changing vs. staying the same, of experience with growth, or just years in the public arena.

We can choose to keep on this path of avoidance, and fail as a nation, individually and collectively; or we can choose to stand as a collective nation, succeed united, and begin to hold ourselves accountable. We can take back our nation and regain our national pride. However, it won’t come easy. First, we have to pay attention and ask hard questions, we have to stay involved and vote. Not just for the prettiest face (not intended as sexist, and in no way indicates a preference for or against Palin), but for substance and ability; for values, not sound bites; for someone who doesn’t profess to have all the answers, but wants to lead the team to find our collective answers. We have to stop pointing fingers and making it us vs. them, because in the end it really comes down to us. Who we are as individuals, and how we behave as a society; whether we take our responsibilities as individuals and citizens seriously, or not; and whether we hold ourselves as a nation, and ourselves as individuals accountable, or not. We can continue to look outside ourselves and perpetuate the truth of Pogo’s quote, or we can look inside ourselves and change the future by making it “we have met the victor, and it IS us.”

If you don’t want to take personal responsibility for our nation, you don’t have to read any further. Actually, you probably didn’t need to even read this far.

But, if you want to be a part of the success, then you have to be a true patriot and be engaged; encourage others to be engaged. Speak UP! Write your legislators and candidates. Ask them the hard questions about knowledge and values, commitment and compassion. Ask them to hold those who lead us into this mess accountable, even as we would be held accountable. Expect and demand thoughtful answers. Don’t settle for sound bites! If you like all the answers and they come too easily you’re probably getting sound bites. We have trained our politicians to give us the most expedient answers because they know we aren’t really paying attention. They only pay as much attention to us as we do to them, most times less.

So, if you really want change, if you really want our nation to stand tall and proud, and stable, go take a look in the mirror.

It really is up to US!

Heidi Weiland
September 24, 2008





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