* By Marty Kaplan Huffington Post *
There are basically two views of the American people.
In one, we’re the patriots ready to do whatever it takes for our country. If a crisis requires sacrifices, we won’t flinch when our leaders summon us to make them. We’re the people FDR asked not only to fight and die for freedom, but also to pay higher taxes on profits, “to forgo higher wages” and “spending money for things that we want… which are not absolutely essential.” We rise to the challenge and ask what we can do for our country.
In the other, we cry bloody murder when anyone tries to take anything away from us. We’re entitled to benefits, but we’re outraged by costs. We’re the mob pointing fingers at everyone but ourselves, the sheep that demagogues herd toward outrage, the puppets that political candidates spend hundreds of millions of dollars to con with outrageous attacks on their opponents and preposterous promises of their own.
For 40 years, the arena where these schizoid embodiments of our nature have battled most ferociously has been energy policy.
In the 1970s, President Carter declared that America’s “intolerable dependence on foreign oil threatens… the very security of our nation,” and that “every act of energy conservation… is an act of patriotism.” In the last year of his presidency, he advocated a course of “pain” and “discipline” including a fee on imported oil that would raise gasoline taxes 10 cents a gallon. The reaction? A hundred thousand copies of the Boston Globe hit the street the next morning containing an editorial about the speech under the headline “More Mush From the Wimp” before the prank was discovered and the title changed to “All Must Share the Burden.” Take your pick: Sacrifice is for wimps; sacrifice is for patriots.
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Marty Kaplan is the Director of the Norman Lear Center and Professor at the USC Annenberg School