There is much anger and demand for revenge in the land. Who doesn’t want to smack down the greedy bankers and lenders who “caused” the worldwide financial melt down and are still stuffing their pockets with governmental money while one corporation after another announces thousands of job cuts.

It almost gets one to forget about what the Bush Administration did to us and our image around the world, the human suffering caused, our treasure and moral high ground lost on the war in Iraq, the spying on Americans and torture on whoever fell within our security grasp. Worry not as On January 6th, House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers introduced House Resolution 104, “to establish a national commission on presidential war powers and civil liberties.”

I can’t say I wouldn’t like to get the greedy bastards and, if not putting George W. and Cheney in jail, at least renouncing their crimes against our Constitution.

I appreciate the pleasure, simplicity and value of revenge, but there are at least two reasons to let go of our anger.

First of all we’ve got real problems as a nation and as individuals and families and there is good reason to believe President Obama is right about not spending his political capital on revenge or looking back. We have many major priorities: getting our economy and as much of the world’s economy as possible moving forward including finding one or more sustainable economic engines and changing many, many things like reforming the financial system, ending our auto and foreign oil dependency, creating a universal health system and effectively responding to climate change amongst other monumental challenges. We need to concentrate on the future.

And then there is the uncomfortable fact that if we really want to correct what has happened, we need to see that Americans carry a fair share of the blame for the conditions that give rise to our hunger for revenge. Americans willingly bought SUVs and McMansions, shopped until they dropped, went into debt, re-elected Bush, let their Congressional representatives ignore global warming, our energy insecurity and regulation of the financial system, and were seduced by low prices as I pointed out in an Eye column in November 2004 (“Low prices are killing us. You won’t hear this from your leaders in Albany or Washington, DC, but the price of gasoline, Wal-Mart prices, the China price and food prices are undermining our security, health and environment“) and so on and so forth.

Someone I know calling for getting the damned Wall Street wizards, making them give back their money and punishing them said it wasn’t us who caused the crises. It was all the fault of evil bankers manipulating the system with mortgage based derivatives, hedge funds and swaps amongst other tools. Yes, the system was manipulated but didn’t the public at large lay the ground work with our willingness to be “consumers” rather than “citizens” that gave bankers the opportunity to manipulate?

Like the 162 pages of victims of Madoff’s ponzi scheme, we took the pieces of pie offered to us without thinking about where it came from and what the price in the end would be to them.

Yet, few Americans want to consider themselves at fault for the trouble we are now in. It is simpler and less burdensome to just denounce Wall Street and its bankers and financiers rather than consider our own role in the current crisis. That way we can keep the dream alive that if we get through this crisis like the tech bubble, the fall of corporations like ENRON, the impact of 9/11 amongst other economic troubles in the past, the free lunch will be back.

In the aforementioned 2004 Eye I concluded by writing: “We have a consumer society intent on acquiring endless stuff at bargain basement prices without paying attention to community interests. Our only hope may rest in our ability, if we have it, to return to being more a nation of citizens using our economic levers with our community interests in the forefront. Some value setting leadership from public officials would be welcome, but don’t holdeathe.”

Isn’t it a lot better to keep our eyes and minds on fashioning the changes we need as a society. Let us be citizens first. If we do end up going after the bastards, let us not ignore the ugly role we played in creating the troubles we now suffer.


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One Response to “Revenge”

  1. Douglas Boettner Says:

    I almost totally agree with your opinion that the American public should shoulder a fair share of the blame for the economic fiasco this country finds itself in; as far as the “living beyond one’s mean” areas; excessive use of credit in obtaining sub-prime loans for as much as 125% of the value of their homes, and buying everything under the sun whether it is an essential item or whether it was environmentally friendly.

    But corporate America (banks, credit institutions and car manufacturers) need to develop a conscience also, and need to think more toward what is good for society and what is good for the environment, instaed of just thinking of the bottom line and making a profit at the expense of the environment and the fiscal stability of the country. The real shame lies here. The idea is take away the candy from the children and they won’t get cavities.

    Don’t give the American people a chance to gluttonize themselvers, don’t offer sumprime mortgages to people who can’t afford them, and only offer products that are environmentally friendly and then you’ve made a great stride toward solvng the country’s problems.

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