Monday, September 10, 2007

Us or Ours: Chasing the enemy

In my daily check of historical anniversaries, I came across the tidbit that on this date in 1813 US commander Oliver Hazard Perry sent a memorable missive to announce the defeat of the British fleet in the Battle of Lake Erie. His quote is one of the few well-remembered products of the otherwise mostly forgettable War of 1812 (the political history of why the war was waged is actually pretty interesting and worth a read).

Certainly military messages have a need for brevity, and Mr. Perry was quite economical with his words, the pith of the report sticking in the collective memory, if not always in exact form:
We have met the enemy, and they are Ours
The article on the quote points out that Perry's simple sentence became the inspiration for a Pogo comic strip used for an Earth Day poster back in 1971. Interestingly enough, it's cartoonist Walt Kelly's twisted take on Perry's note that I always recall first:
We have met the enemy, and He is Us
Here's the poster:

Maybe Kelly's satire strikes me as more true, or more applicable to the times in which we live. Certainly on both a social and individual level, we often find ourselves as the primary obstacle standing in the way of true progress. Focusing on conquering our own failings, fears, doubts and insecurities may lead us down a path where there's no need to battle outside forces so regularly.

Of course it may also be that I'm just naturally a smart aleck with an overwhelming fondness for irreverence.
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