Monday, February 28, 2011

Choosing Wisely the Vessel in which to Cross the Sea of Debt

Grimm’s Hansel and Gretel escape a pathless wood and hunger’s ache, only to fall into traps set by a horrible witch. The clever, determined children prevail, however, hoisting the witch on her own petard and filling their empty pockets with her treasure. Surely nothing more should stand in their way, but something does: a body of water so large that mere perseverance and perfect wit cannot save them. Fate can and indeed does by delivering a white duck that serves as both vessel and captain to take the children safely across.

Folklore and perhaps Aesop tell a slightly different tale, this time featuring a scorpion that stands on the shore of a large body of water. A frog, not a duck, appears, but the frog hesitates before offering to rescue the scorpion.

“Will you sting me?” the frog asks.

“No, I will not. If I sting you, we will both drown. Why would I want to harm you and therefore myself?”

The frog sees that the scorpion’s reasoning is logical and allows the scorpion to climb aboard his back, only to be stung before the two are safe on the other side. Before drowning, the frog croaks, “Why?”

“It is my nature,” says the scorpion.

Therein lies a lesson for the American voter. We stand on the shores of a huge body of water, rising ever higher every year. This ocean of debt threatens to flood our futures, and for decades, through countless Presidential administrations, we have ignored its swell. Now we, the people, like Chicken Littles, run hither and yon crying that the sky is indeed falling and demanding immediate solutions for the financial woes created by entering into wars we cannot afford and offering tax cuts we cannot sustain.

We Chickens run for our lives, away from the waters creeping higher and ever higher under a heavy sky, in search of a lifeboat, captained by a man or woman who not only braves the waves, but also promises to stay afloat. In such hysteria, can we honestly discern the true nature of the captain and his vessel? His craft may be a white duck that means us no harm, but what if there is a scorpion on board? Its sting could render null and void the contracts between the people and their representation. We must look closely before jumping lest we drown after being stung.

I do not wish to drown. I want government and its representatives to insure that the vessels in which I travel will not crash, sink, or crumble. I want government to regulate contractors so that buildings built will not break in whole or part, crushing innocent bystanders. I want them to insist that the bridges I cross will not break and send me to a watery grave. I want government to oversee roads so that I do not harm my vehicle or myself while driving from one place to another. I want government to watch over moneylenders so that the deal is fair and usury illegal. Government needs to keep its promises when it takes my money for Social Security and health care in my old age. In short, I want government to protect me from those who would harm me whether they are foreign invaders or domestic terrorists. I want them to make corporations and Wall Street respect my pension funds, not raid them, and honor my very human need for clean water, air, and food rather than allowing protections such as Halliburton loopholes so that it can make my world toxic and not be held accountable. And I want judicial remedy if I am ever forced to demand responsible accountability. Perhaps most of all, I want government to provide for the public education because well-informed citizens are essential to my safety and the domestic peace.

I am very willing to pay for all this government, and I know it’s expensive. Just as my heating and cooling costs have risen, so has government’s. Just as the cost of housing has climbed and fallen, so has government’s. All of those people who oversee industries and goods, who teach my children, catch the criminals who seek to harm me, those good men and women who raise a weapon against my enemies and fight the natural disasters that come my way, be they fire or water or wind--yes, all of them need to be able to share in the great American pie. I do not wish them harm because they are willing to serve my needs, and I do not resent their benefits because I need those who will perform society’s most unpleasant tasks. I wish them well, and I know I must pay.

Apparently, paying is not enough, and this should slow down the Chickens. They must continue to tread water while examining closely the real nature of the vessel that carries those who promise lifeboats. Are they white ducks with clever children on their backs, or are there scorpions aboard for surely, if they are scorpions, our survival is not in their natures. Be brave, Chicken Littles; think of yourself and your fellow man. Above all else, be prepared to sacrifice, but not your lives.