We Have Met the Enemy…

Pretend you have just landed in the United States from another planet. You look around you at the various institutions you encounter. What conclusions would you draw about the inhabitants of this society?

With a few notable exceptions, you find newspapers and electronic news outlets focused on the trivial and sensational. When you ask those who produce them, they tell you that they are giving people what they want—and in the era of the Internet, they can count the clicks. You conclude that sports and sex are very important to these earthlings.

After some investigation, you also conclude that the majority of Americans view their governing institutions as just another kind of sport. They choose a team, and support the members of that team, who tell them what they want to hear—that the other team is cheating, that inconvenient facts aren’t true and that simple slogans hold the answers to complex problems.

Surely, you think, religion will be different. Religion, after all, was the way humans first tried to grapple with the serious questions: why are we here? What do we owe the others with whom we share this planet? What does it mean to be a good person? What, for that matter, is good, and what is evil? Although you do find many thoughtful religious figures grappling with those existential themes, you find many more whose message is exclusionary, authoritarian and small-minded—who insist that their Truth is superior, and even those who disagree must be forced to live by it.

I could stretch this exercise further. Our alien visitor could examine the behavior of the financial institutions that caused the Great Recession, and consider what that behavior suggests about the culture in which they operate.  Or the visitor could look at Hollywood and the entertainment industry, and speculate about the audiences they serve.

But here’s the point: We the People are that culture and that audience.

We are the ones following the celebrity scandal while ignoring reports on our government and society. We are the ones electing the buffoons who scorn science and evidence and elevate partisanship over both. We are the ones using religion as an excuse to demean and disadvantage our fellow-citizens. We are the ones conferring elevated status on “successful” operators who make a lot of money by buying lawmakers and fleecing the gullible.

My make-believe alien visitors would be entirely justified in concluding that we are being poorly served by our media, our government, and significant segments of our religious and business communities. But they would also be right to conclude that we are getting the institutions we deserve.

Pogo was right: We have met the enemy and he is us.


  1. You and Pogo are on target. Reading your thoughts brings to mind the National Lampoon’s classic spoof of the Desiderata including this line, “Be assured that a walk through the ocean of most souls would scarcely get your feet wet.”

  2. I have resisted commenting on your blog but have commented frequently on FB. All I can say now is that you hit the nail squarely on the head so often that I have come to admire your ability to synthesize what you read/hear/observe and cogently, and in understandable language, help us learn the truth in so many situations. Thank you.

  3. The trivial and sensational is what our Mega-Media want our focus on: twerks, Bieber, phony Reality Shows. If it goes beyond trivial and sensational then be sure not to reveal all the facts. The Entertainers-Presenters of Fox, MSNBC or CNN will focus on content delivery for their Audience .

    Recently the vicious system of Politics here in the USA was on display. Senator Bernie Sanders the chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, sponsored a bill, ” The measure would have improved health and dental care services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs. It also would have allowed the VA to open 27 new clinics and medical facilities. Educational opportunities would have been expanded for post-9/11 veterans. Another provision would have improved access to care and benefits for veterans who experienced sexual trauma while serving in the military. Also full cost-of-living adjustments would be restored for future military retirees. You might think that with all Flag Waving and singing the National Anthem before every Sporting Event this bill would have sailed through.

    Republicans derailed the bill by raising a budget point of order challenging outlays for veterans. Sanders’ motion to advance the bill won by a vote of 56-41, but Republicans invoked a rule that required 60 votes to proceed. Every NO Vote was from a Republican including Dan Coats.

Comments are closed.