We Have Met the Enemy and He is Us


Today is the 36th Earth Day and the famous Pogo cartoon celebrating the first earth day is more appropriate than ever.

Walt Kelly, the author of the Pogo comic strip, was a brilliant cartoonist and political satirist. Pogo first appeared in the 1950’s during the McCarthy era and continued through the Nixon presidency.

Pogo was the first newspaper comic strip to engage in biting political satire and he often faced harsh complaints from those he was criticizing, and their supporters. As a result (as is the case with Doonesbury today), some papers dropped the strip while others moved it to the editorial page.
According to Wikipedia:

Whenever he would start a controversial storyline, Kelly would usually offer alternate strips that papers could run instead of the political ones for a given week. Sometimes labelled “Special” or with a letter after the date to denote that these were alternate offerings, Kelly referred to these strips as “The Bunny Strips,” because more often than not he would populate the alternate strips with the least offensive material he could imagine, fluffy little bunnies telling stupid jokes. Kelly would tell fans that if all they saw in “Pogo” were fluffy little bunnies, then their newspaper didn’t believe they were capable of thinking for themselves, or didn’t want them to think for themselves

A number of years ago, my wife gave me a framed and signed copy of the “Earth Day” strip and it hangs above the desk in my office. It serves as a constant reminder of the responsibility each of us has in a democracy.

Walt Kelly was a writer as well as a cartoonist and he understood the quote to be more than just a comment on the environment. Here is what he said in the introduction to “The Pogo Papers,” published in 1953, nine years before the Earth Day strip.

“In the time of Joseph McCarthyism, celebrated in the Pogo strip by a character named Simple J. Malarkey, I attempted to explain each individual is wholly involved in the democratic process, work at it or no. The results of the process fall on the head of the public and he who is recalcitrant or procrastinates in raising his voice can blame no one but himself.

Traces of nobility, gentleness and courage persist in all people, do what we will to stamp out the trend. So, too, do those characteristics which are ugly. It is just unfortunate that in the clumsy hands of the cartoonist all traits become ridiculous, leading to a certain amount of self conscious expostulation and the desire to join battle.

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 tiny blasts of tiny trumpets, we shall meet the enemy, and not only may he be ours, he may be us.”

On this Earth Day, and in tribute to Walt Kelly, let us each find ways to make our tiny blasts on our tiny trumpets. A good place to begin would be to read the Earth Day Network’s Top 10 Actions to Combat Climate Change. And pass it on to friends.


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