pogoIn 1971 on the second “Earth Day” a cartoon character and his creator looked out across a morass of garbage and pollution in his own back yard and uttered the words that have informed the environmental movement for the next forty- five years.

Walt Kelly’s Pogo and his band of cartoon characters lived in the Okefenokee Swamp and on the pages of hundreds of newspapers and the daily life of millions.  Kelly was among the first to teach America about diversity and the swamp was an apt metaphor to do it.

There was the possum [Pogo], the alligator Albert, Howland the owl and for a time a black human, Bumbazine among the many other characters.

Pogo is long gone, the “comic strip” first published in 1941, ceased publication in 1975, two years after Kelly’s death. Kelly was born in 1913 and grew up in Bridgeport. 

We are remembering Pogo today not for any anniversary, but for the simple value of the wisdom of his words and for the “human” qualities that Kelly provided him; reasonableness and humility, which are both dearly needed today.

Across the political and cultural spectrum the divide in Connecticut, in America seems so great as to put the fabric of our union, our communities in doubt. Anger, fear, conspiracies, pure nonsense, are coming from both left and right on nearly every issue that America as a community needs to address.

For many in greater New Haven the political change is cataclysmic, others cast off that fear of their neighbors with scorn and worse.

Across the spectrum, again – both left and right – freedom, privacy, civility, fairness, Constitutional principles are being tossed aside as relics of the past by an alarming number. 

Flag burning, swastikas, unbridled anger at police, ridicule of students, dismissal of free speech, fake news, fatal attacks, abuse of women, scorn thrown everywhere.

Many of us would like to blame it on a social media that doesn’t seem social or perhaps even real media. But the impact is real and if Marshall McCluhan was right, that the “media is the message”, than the trouble is just beginning.

In twenty-three years this space has rarely addressed anything beyond our local
community, but today the American
community is in peril.

It is a peril not from the election, the Black Lives Movement, the White Supremacists, the Jihadis, the Anti-Semites, the Wall Streeters, the Occupy Movement, the Republicans, the Democrats, but from
all of us.

The disregard and disrespect for different “others” is being embraced with defiance and glee and that should not become the new American ideal.

 “We have met the enemy and he is us.” 

As we look toward a year of great challenge and political turmoil, each of us can decide, what community do we want, what kind of person do we want to be, what kind of values do we really want. Will we be the one to heap scorn on our neighbor for a rhetorical point or a differing political belief. 

Are we voices on a comment page or can we soar with another cartoon character who promotes Truth, Justice and the American Way?