September 2, 2010


One cliché says a picture is worth a 1000 words. Frankly, I’ve seen pictures, especially in fashion magazines, which could use 1000 words to explain what they’re selling or what the image intends to project. Of late, I’ve noticed the models in these publications look miserable or sinister or as if they’ve joined a violent gang. The eyes of either sex are charcoaled, their bodies emaciated and their clothes torn. In fact, the sex is often indeterminate. It wouldn’t go amiss if the word “boy” or “girl” were typed in and maybe a few more words added to convince me I’d want to rush out and buy torn clothing. 

I keep wondering about the presumed attraction to misery and despair. It must be real because the mantra in television news is, “if it bleeds, it leads.”  I’m stopped listening to the local news because it’s a laundry list of car crashes, fires and police shoot outs. I’m not burying my head in the sand, but I’m old enough to know most of the time, the world works better than the news suggests. Wall Street may have greedy people, Congress may be awash in politicians who spend more time campaigning than conducting the business of the country, and there are CEOs willing to gouge their customers. But not all of them. Not even most of them. If the bad apples were in the majority, then the evil they do wouldn’t be news.

Right now the media tells us the nation is divided on the direction we should take. I watch the rallies of the far left and the far right on television but despite the bitter rhetoric, I’m not worried. We’ve had some bitter debates in the past, during the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the Viet Nam war, and the Iraq War. We screamed ourselves silly over the good or bad influence on our children of Elvis and the Beatles.

Change always makes us uncomfortable and we’re going through a lot of it at the moment. Science, technology, the world economy, and variations in the climate have handed us some heavy-duty challenges. Fortunately, we Americans have never looked to institutions to bail us out. So a debate that takes us down to the grass roots is healthy.

Whatever change we impose upon ourselves is always bound within the framework of the Constitution, a document created by some pretty good writers. Their genius was to put emphasis on the rights and responsibilities of individuals rather than institutions. We Americans have always lived up to the spirit of that document. We’ve taken responsibility for ourselves. We’ve gone about our business with respect for our neighbors’ rights and the rule of law. If each of us sticks to these principles, we’ll be okay as a nation. Each of us will  be doing his part.

The comic strip character Pogo is famous for having said, “I’ve seen the enemy and it is us.”  If I wrote a comic strip, my character would say: “I’ve seen the solution and it is us.”