“We have met the enemy and he is us.” Some of us oldsters know this as a quote from the long defunct comic strip Pogo. Walt Kelly wrote the iconic phrase as his main character, a possum named Pogo, overlooked a forest floor littered with tossed out junk. The comic was made into a poster to help promote the first ever observance of Earth Day, April 22, 1970.
The comic strip quote is a takeoff from a phrase coined by American Naval Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry. After defeating the British in the Battle of Lake Erie in 1812, Perry had the presence of mind to utter two memorable lines: “We have met the enemy and they are ours,” and, “Don’t give up the ship.”
Strangely, these linked phrases from both Pogo and the Commodore have been on my mind recently. That’s not because Earth Day is coming up. Don’t get me wrong, I conscientiously do my part to reuse and recycle and to take care of Mother Earth. But the day itself doesn’t usually hold a lot of meaning for me since I firmly believe that we need to take care of our planet every day. No, the real reason I have been thinking along these lines which are oddly linked together is because of the New York State Presidential Primary.
Honestly, I have voted in this primary at every opportunity since I registered to vote at the age of 18. In all of those 39 intervening years my vote has essentially meant nothing. In the past the candidates have been all-but determined by now. But this year is a whole different animal.
For the first time ever we have seen major political candidates actually campaigning in New York State before the primary. We have seen and heard ads for the candidates. We have had auto-dial phone calls from candidates. This is unprecedented. I know for sure that it has happened in other states which traditionally run earlier primaries. But New York State has never been in the mix before, mainly because our primary falls rather late on the calendar and the delegates and candidates are almost always decided by now. This year, since no one has locked up the full delegate count from either major party yet, registered Republicans and Democrats in New Yorkers have a chance to make a genuine difference in choosing their party’s candidates.
Voting, to me, has always been more than just a civic responsibility. It is almost sacred. I never take it lightly and always vote. I vote on everything: school budgets, town council races, state representatives, questions up for referendum on the ballot – everything. And before I vote I always take the time to learn exactly what is on the ballot, who is running for what office, what those candidates stand for, and what the issues mean. I can’t understand people who vote only when there’s a race for governor or president. To me, every election is important, and that may be because I truly believe that government formed at the grassroots is the most sincere form of politics.
If you are a registered Republican or Democrat in New York State I strongly encourage you to vote in this primary on Tuesday, April 19. Because of the way our primaries run, registered voters from each party get to choose which candidate they want to see as their party’s standard bearer. Every registered Republican and Democrat gets a say this year. Even if you think you are voting for an underdog, your candidate still has a chance. So there it is, “Don’t give up the ship.”
Similarly, if you fail to vote and don’t like the outcome here in our state, you have no one to blame but yourself. “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
Polling places in Chautauqua County are open from noon to 9pm tomorrow (Tuesday, April 19.) If you are registered, there is no good excuse. Vote!