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Divided We Fall - The Ornery American

Divided We Fall
By A. Preston Moser Tuesday, April 12, 2008

Since September Eleventh, a phrase commonly seen on bumper stickers is "United We Stand". It is how Americans are saying that we stand united against terrorism and in support of our troops. This is well and good, but the original saying was "United We Stand, Divided We Fall" which reminds us that it is our combined strength that enables us to stand strong, and that without this combining of our strength, we will surely fail. This saying is no less true in times of peace than it is in times of war. Our societies are founded on the notion that as we unite to help and support one another, our safety, security, and ability to provide for our families is increased many times over as compared with each of us fending for ourselves alone in the wilderness.

Beginning around the time of the tax revolt referendums of the late 1970's it became popular to look upon taxes as an evil burden that right thinking people would do well to eliminate. Politicians campaign on the virtues of tax cuts. Many people claim that "these are hard times" and thus we cannot afford the taxes we have, let alone any new ones. We have been encouraged to "Look out for Number One," and we have come to admire the "rugged individualist" who goes his or her own way without regard for anyone else. Perhaps, before it is too late, we can reexamine these attitudes that threaten to divide us and the unfortunate decline towards which they lead us.

The idea that these are "hard times" for Americans must sound pretty bizarre to Ethiopian farmers whose crops have failed, and whose cattle have all died along with their malnourished children. The closest that Americans ever came to real hard times was during the Great Depression. The one thing that many older Americans credit as having helped the country weather the Great Depression is that we Americans looked out for one another and tried with as much compassion as we could muster to lend a helping hand to those who were hardest hit by the circumstances of the time even though we were all hurting. Our grandparents and parents sacrificed a great deal to give us the opportunities we have today. They were certainly rugged individuals, worthy of our respect, but not because they disregarded the needs of other. On the contrary, it was precisely their concern for others that makes them admirable and praiseworthy. It begs the question, how will our children and grandchildren look back at us? Will we burden them with huge deficits for our reckless fiscal policies, expecting them to pay for a mess that we lack the will and the courage to fix?

Our politicians should be reminding us of our responsibilities to our children, and to their children, and future generations. But instead of making us feel responsible and playing to our selfless heroic strengths, many of them find it much easier and therefore more expedient to pander to the opposite side of our nature. These politicians appeal to our greed, desire and selfishness. They promise us tax cuts, but deliver these tax cuts almost exclusively to the wealthiest Americans who are able to finance their election campaigns. Thus, as the rich get richer and everyone else gets slowly poorer, Americans have less disposable income with which to buy the goods and services that would keep the factories going. A stagnant and worsening economy is the obvious result. Henry Ford recognized this economic principle when he realized that in order for his young company to succeed, he was going to have to pay his workers well enough so that they could afford to buy the automobiles that they were building.

One view of history suggests that the Roman Empire fell because the Roman citizens discovered that they could vote for "Bread and Circuses" to the exclusion of all else and thus neglected the less pleasant duties of maintaining their empire and providing for essential services. History seems to have a way of repeating itself, and so today we Americans have discovered that we can vote to decrease our taxes which support essential services and maintain our states and nation. We can remove the burden that we all share from our shoulders by claiming that it is too much to bear, despite the fact that we have the greatest wealth and one of the lowest tax burdens of any industrialized nation in the world. Perhaps we are now witnessing the start of the decline and fall of the American Empire because our concern for our immediate self interest has caused us to look with disdain on the needs of our states and country, and our personal comfort seems more important than whether our social service workers, police, firefighters and teachers keep their jobs.

Some very hard times are coming for America if we choose not to unite and support our essential services, our police, our firefighters, our teachers and our children's future, for if we do not unite, then we will surely fall.

Copyright © 2008 by A. Preston Moser

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