I knew we were in trouble back in 1996 when the conservatives ridiculed Hillary Clinton for saying, "It takes a village to raise a child."
Bob Dole and other Republicans scoffed at the idea. Following the lead of their exulted leader Ronald Reagan, they downplayed the importance of our social bonds and suggested that only the rights and responsibilities of the individual mattered. Instead of community, they promoted self interest. Welfare mothers, social programs, who needs them? We needed rugged individualism, tax cuts and that frontier spirit.
It's been down hill ever since. With our focus fixed on individual need and individual greed, we've blithely careened along this collision course to ruin.
We must come to our senses and realize that we need each other. People do better living in groups. That's what makes civilization possible and and what makes it preferable to living alone. We band together because, when the night is long and cold, it's a great comfort to have friends huddling with you around the campfire.
Hillary's point when she evoked the proverb in her book and at her speech at the 1996 Democratic Convention was that we need to pool our resources and our strengths, to accomplish communally that which would be near impossible alone.
It's time to rediscover this spirit. Today, we must come together to get ourselves out of this massive economic ditch we've landed in. President Obama's economic stimulus and mortgage rescue plans are heading in that direction. You bail out your neighbor today in the hopes that your neighbor will be around to bail you out when you hit a rough patch tomorrow.
America has always managed this crazy balance that pits the needs of the group against the needs of the individual. As a country, we're strongest when we foster both.