Sunday, November 27, 2011

Demons or Scapegoats?

Demons? Or just scapegoats?
There are watershed moments in history, as there are in life, when everything turns on a dime. They are events that change our lives. The Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the events of 9/11 are but a few examples. We knew at those moments that life would never again be the same.

Art mirrors life, so movies have watershed moments as well. They are the quintessential climax, the powerful point of revelation, that leave the viewer profoundly affected. One such movie moment comes to mind from the classic female-bonding film, "Steel Magnolias," which starred such first-rate actresses as Sally Fields as the mother of Julia Roberts, Shirley MacLaine as the curmudgeonly yet still lovable Louisa "Ouiser," Olympia Dukakis as Clairee and Dolly Parton as Truvy the hairdresser. It was around her beauty parlor's egg-shaped hair dryers that the women forged a common bond and sense of deep and devoted kinship.

The watershed moment occurs in the cemetery scene. At the grave where her daughter has just been buried, Sally Fields is overcome with grief and anger. She falls to the ground, crying, "Why, why, why!" and then says, "I am so angry! I am just so angry. I just want to hit someone!"

At that moment. Olympia Dukakis grabs Shirley MacLaine and says, "Here, hit Ouiser!" MacLaine grimaces in bewildered anticipation of the blows that never do come, because, realizing the ridiculousness of the proposition, Fields changes from sobbing to laughing hysterically.

Hit Ouiser indeed? What good would that do?

We are immediately struck by the humor and the futility of the scene.

I have often used that example to explain President George W. Bush's decision to invade Iraq. He couldn't immediately find the real culprit to punch, Osama Bin Laden, so he did the next best thing. He hit "Ouiser", in the person of Iraqi dictator Sadam Hussein. It turned out to be a mistake of gigantic proportion, and far reaching consequence.

Ten years later, after trillions of dollars squandered, thousands of lives spent and countless other casualties that will remain with us, we have to ask ourselves whether it was truly worth the effort.

Did we pay far too great a price for the partial objectives achieved? History will be the judge of that.

In the meantime, we need to employ the "Hit Ouiser" principle to our current political conundrum. How do we express our anger at the mistakes and mismanagement that almost collapsed our whole economy, and still threatens to cripple our economic hegemony today?

Do we "Hit Ouiser?" — that is, blame it all on President Barack Obama, and throw the bum out? Or do we focus on the real culprits, the greed, and the stupidity that brought us to the brink of disaster, and exorcise the real demons that bedevil us?
That is our challenge in this upcoming presidential election year.

If we chose to just "Hit Ouiser," we will have no one but ourselves to blame for the damage we self-inflict. But if we rise up and right the wrongs which have beset us, we will ultimately benefit not only ourselves, but our children, and their children as well.

The choice is ours to make, America. Let's hope we make that choice not from a place of anger or spite, but out of wisdom, reason, judgment and forethought.