We have met
the enemy and he is us.
Pogo cartoon by Walt Kelly back in the 60’s
You know what I miss? The
enemy! Just before and when I was growing up, we had the Krauts and the Japs to
hate, then immediately followed with the Commies and the Ruskies and Fidel
Castro and his beard. Later still, we had the Axis of Evil to contend with and
then Al Qaeda and then ISIS. It was so
invigorating to have all the bad guys out there so we could conveniently ignore
our own history of broken Indian treaties, slave-owners, lynchers, ruthless big
business exploiters, imperialist invaders, women-haters, homophobic
policy-makers, certified environmental trashers and beyond. Sure, we had out
little problems, but this was still the greatest country in the world and the ones
to be hated, pitied, warned against, were always “out there.” We took great
comfort in the “starving children in India, the South American despots, the
war-torn/ famine-ridden Africans, the commie-deluded Chinese, the quaint
Europeans stuck in their museums and fancy architecture and so on.” Such a
shame that they couldn’t enjoy the wonderful freedoms of being an American—that
is a straight white-male Christian white-collar one. What made us “great” was
our comforting delusions of being united against “them.”
But when the Berlin wall
came tumbling down and Russia collapsed and Mandela was freed and then elected
and China made most of our goods and Europe surpassed us in education, health
care and general quality of life, the notion of defining ourselves by the enemy
abroad began to topple. Such a great moment to re-consider the strange need to
create an identity dependent upon an enemy. But instead we took this
opportunity to begin eating our own.
Of course, if you believed
as so many did, that Native Americans, blacks, blue-collar workers, Latinos,
women, children, gay folks, Jews/Muslims/atheists and beyond are something
other than “our own, “not “real” Americans, then turning against our own
citizens is as American as apple pie—without the acorn mush, collard greens, Irish
potatoes, tacos, latkes, falafel and organic vegetables, thank you very much. But
in our insatiable greed for money, the controls against monopoly toppled one by
one, Corporate America and Wall Street rose unchecked and we began to devour
our own children and eat away at whoever stood in the way.
Take Walmart. Comes riding
into town like the old gunslingers, buys up the Moms and Pops, builds outside
the city limits and Main Street collapses and people drive to the outskirts and
then we wage war in the Middle East to get the oil to fuel the cars to drive to
the mall to buy the products made more cheaply in sweatshops overseas. So our
own factories close, put our own people out of work, local culture dies and
Walmart takes all of the profits.
And then the most incredible
thing happened. Without a single shot being fired, we elected in a “fair”
election (well, let’s not talk about Russia’s part in it), the leader of our
own demise who despite a few million less in the popular vote, feels he has our
permission to make America the old kind of “great” (all those citizens who
aren’t “real” Americans) and start shooting ourselves in the foot and eating
away at our own body of democracy.
did it. Not the
Nazis, not the Commies (well, again, Russia), not the terrorists. It was us. Or
at least the gerrymandered Electoral College us. And all the people whose jobs
got shipped overseas were so duped and deluded that they voted for the guy who was
part of the 1% who made it all happen. Who claimed he was turning America back
to them (wink, wink) and getting rid of all or shutting down all those pesky
other pseudo-Americans who dared to look, feel or think differently. Twitler
rises to the top and nobody notices. Well, except for some 4 million people
worldwide who gave up shopping at Walmart last Saturday to say that this
Emperor has no clothes and it ain’t a pretty sight.
That’s a bitter pill to
swallow. We’ve chosen castor oil as the daily condiment of our new cuisine and
we better get used to it. The carnage has begun and is simply extraordinary.
Even conservative Republicans are shocked.
Of course, we have another
choice. Recognize once and for all that the enemy is us, and us is our
fellow workers, family members, colleagues and citizens in states that can feel
more foreign than any country in the world. The enemy is also apathy, ignorance,
greed, manufactured distrust, hatred that we all potentially carry and that we
all need to recognize and work to overcome. That’s the common enemy that could
and should unite us. But that would require a subtlety of thought that makes for bad T.V. and apparently is beyond our capacity at the moment. Maybe it's time for a Martian invasion. Get the enemy back out there where we like him.