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Tell it to the Indians

Cartoon sketch of the Statue of Liberty, submerged in water, with birds flying overhead. Illustration by Earle Levenstein.

I don't know when it started, but we've got to get a grip on reality.

I mean the story we tell ourselves about how great we are is really way way out of control. I guess we're OK as countries go—not such total bottom feeders as some; yet not so la-de-dah as we'd like to think—but come on; perfection just isn't our middle name.

I mean nobody was holding up a big "Welcome Chris!" sign when Columbus did or didn't arrive and besides, there were a whole lot of other people living here, along with buffalo herds, deer, fish in the streams, and surely fruit and lots of other edibles. I'm pretty sure those people weren't really happy to see all these strangers putting up shelters and flags of various kinds, wearing fancy clothes. It was sort of like "Here I am!" where someone comes in through my front door and sets up camp in my living room.

Ditto the Pilgrims and their suffering through the cold winters and making peace—sort of—with the local residents and bought a couple of acres from them and then Paul Revere and all that stuff and New York and the British and George Washington and blah blah blah.

And as for all those families who were already here? Hunting and fishing and—well—living, hundreds of thousands of them? Well, check it out now: hardly any left, lots of movies about them and our cowboys and armies—heroes—end of story.

Basically, not much to be proud about.

And that was sort of just the beginning.

Us as brave settlers and the battle for independence and the thirteen colonies and George Washington and our Constitution and freedom and the World War and so forth and so forth and here we are.

And what about business? I mean earning money? Little stores and families and then bigger stores and pretty soon we're talking about big—very big—bucks, lots of it for the biggies in our Land of Opportunity.

Not for everybody of course; share and share alike is a truly wonderful concept, if we're on a desert island and we have to divide the one remaining pineapple.

But in our world right here, in the US of A, even though equality is our calling card, there are lots of differences, both individual and circumstantial. From health and educational opportunities to—yes—birth and societal status.

Ambition—if we want to be totally honest—plays a significant role. Societally, bettering life for everyone, or personally, making very big bucks for yours truly. There are people who do both: make the money and spread the benefits, and bless them, on their way straight to the promised land.

On the other hand, it's those in the endlessly "more is better" mode, where the temptation to break the bank takes over, to accumulate so much that they couldn't possibly fit any more in their vault.

No bottom to the appetite; it's competition with Croesus.

And that's where the devil steps in.

Rules are meant to be broken: lie, cheat, steal, manipulate; loot, pillage and burn.

Enough of those to go around, in countries abroad, in individuals surrounded by poverty who've sold their souls.

And right here at home, it's no different.

Some who've marked the cards, are juggling the books and making payoffs; there are invisible transactions, invented names, breakthrough products with no substance; people soliciting investments in an imaginary business, storing taxable dollars in banks on remote islands, sending workers down into a known death-dealing environment, marketing a fun-seeming product with a known addictive ingredient to schoolchildren, patenting a life-saving drug and selling it at an astronomical price.

Same scams.

Different language.

One thing for sure: Lone Ranger we ain't.

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