While Googling the phrase: "beating a dead horse," I was directed to this tidbit in the New York Times, December 3, 1895: Tried to Beat a Horse to Death. That article relates how on December 2nd in Jersey City, New Jersey, one, Thomas Brennan, picked up a "horse that had become worthless from old age [that] was turned out to die by its owner two weeks ago." Mr. Brennan was subsequently arrested when he was "found trying to beat the horse to death." Seems that Mr. Brennan "couldn't sell the animal alive, he thought he would kill it and sell the carcass to 'the dead-animal man.'" At his arraignment, the horse-beater pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six months in the penitentiary.
The first thing that stunned me was Brennan's sentence. I just didn't think that 113 years ago they sentenced folks to the pen for beating horses...much less for a term of six months. If anything, I would have expected a $10 fine, and not much else. Goes to show you. Folks were more civilized in the old days than we think.
Okay, Bill -- you say, somewhat impatiently -- we know your penchant for telling a good story. What's the point about the guy trying to beat his horse to death?
My clever literary device seems to have worked! Glad you asked the point of that story.
Old age is impacting more and more baby boomers--as it is also shaking our country's aging infrastructure and increasingly antiquated native industries. Are we gray-haired folks worthless? Hell no! Just like that Mr. Brennan's aging horse, we have some life in us and something yet to contribute. It's just that someone has constructed a byzantine system that makes it next to impossible for us to get mobilized, like we once did in the Sixties (I was there then but just don't seem to remember a lot of it--guess I had a good time). And I don't care to whose drum you marched all those years ago -- right or left wing is not the point -- there were leaders then and they moved us and we accomplished great things. That generation of leadership seems gone; replaced by carefully coiffed hair, opinion polls, and soundbites. Without question, many of those we once viewed as larger than life had glaring faults, which we foolishly overlooked; but today's leaders are reduced in stature not merely because we watch them on our cellphone screens -- no, they are truly less compelling. Where once we looked up to those who ran our country, now we only seem to be looking down on them--and for good cause.
When states and counties were flush with cash,we should have engaged in preventative maintenance. Instead, state and local legislatures wallowed in corruption and took the easy payoff and awarded the undeserved contract. Look around at our crumbling public works of recent vintage. That is not decay--that is criminality. Where were the voices of those now seeking to lead us?
What of the ongoing devastation to the landscape of corporate America? Is there no more creative solution than layoffs, outsourcing, and last one out turn off the lights? Do we cut down an entire orchard when pruning and trimming would revitalize the trees? Permitting our industries and their workers to rust into oblivion is not sound public policy. Once, we used to find a way--we led the world in creative solutions. Now, we lick our wounds.
We are pummeled by preening politicos who substitute air-time for hard work and think that they entertain us with worthless public hearings and numbing rounds of special panels. Sadly, we stagger back into our own corners because we stood in the ring defenseless--victims of a callous calculation that we are worth more dead than alive--that it's best to put the coup de grace into the thick skulls of so many small businesses and taxpayers. You know the drill. Big guys to the right and follow the line to the representatives and senators (and, please, make that out to "cash.") Little guys to the left and, well, just follow the judas goat. No one is accountable. No one cuts costs and demands performance. Far from it. Government is like gas, which expands to fill any sized container. The solution always seems the same: more taxes, more government, less service, and worsening conditions.
You want to counter the deleterious effects of rampant fossil fuel prices? Rebuild our nation's railroads so that they can support high-speed transportation for commuters and cargo. Draft a comprehensive national policy that demands fuel economy from our automobiles and trucks,and funds the replacement of the internal combustion engine. Start converting to battery, solar, and wind power wherever possible. Put an end to the countless seminars and annual meetings that are little more than excuses for golf outings and cost us all billions of dollars in unnecessary fuel expenditures required to travel to those remote locations -- anyone ever heard of using that newfangled Internet for a webconference?
In the end, we stand in peril between a sea before us and adversaries attacking us from the rear. We need a Moses. We get an Eliot Spitzer. How sad an epitaph for this once great nation if the only value we have left is what the "dead animal man" will pay.