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Two wise men named Walt…


We are very fortunate to have Walter Jones as a weekly contributor to the Amherst News under his “Walt’s World” byline. In particular, he has patiently helped us better understand the historic significance of Amherst and the important leadership roles played by its prominent past citizens at this special “Canada 150” time. We appreciate your wisdom Walter, and don’t let up!

There was another very wise “Walt” that I also have come to admire. Walt Kelly was an American animator and cartoonist who began his career in 1936 at Walt Disney Studios, working closely with Disney himself on the iconic Pinocchio, Fantasia, and Dumbo productions.
He later created the “Pogo” comic strip that ran for 27 years in syndication. At its peak, the strip simultaneously appeared in close to 500 newspapers in 14 countries.
Its main character was Pogo the Possum who made Okefenokee Swamp his home along with his many animal friends. Walt Kelly used these animals to give voice to his own life philosophy and liberal views on issues of the day. He specialized in attacking political figures who abused their powers, such as Senator Joseph McCarthy and his demagogic investigations of unproven Communist infiltration of the U.S. This was the “fake news” of the 1950s.
Kelly was often criticized by the more conservative newspapers, but he stuck to his principles, not caring if they ceased carrying his comic strip.
I find that many of the views he expressed in his strip seem as relevant today as they were when they first appeared decades ago.
It’s generally accepted that the most profound words uttered in any comic strip, were those spoken by Pogo to his swamp friend “Porky Pine.”
“We have met the enemy and he is us.”
It perfectly summed up Kelly’s attitude towards the foibles of mankind and the nature of the human condition, and has survived in general usage to this day.
It certainly resonates with our current situation as we grapple with issues of climate change, natural resource conservation, income inequality, and inadequacies in health care and education. It says to us that these are concerns within our powers to rectify, and are not someone else’s problems to solve.
Another observation spoken by “Congressmen Frog” to Pogo, has a bitter taste to it in today’s world.
“I'll tell you, son, the minority got us out-numbered!”
Think of the recent tragedy of Trump’s minority-vote victory… and the now silent American majority suffering from the lack of effective leadership.
And in this age of assisted-dying, “Porky Pine’s” advice from many years ago becomes quite topical in a strange way.
“The best break anybody ever gets is in bein' alive in the first place. An' you don't unnerstan' what a perfect deal it is until you realizes that you ain't gone be stuck with it forever, either.”
And finally, for those of us seeking some silver linings to the clouds hovering overhead, we can comfort ourselves with one of Pogo’s witticisms.
“Looking back on things, the view always improves.”
Walt Kelly died in California in 1973 at age 60, from diabetes complications following a long illness that had cost him a leg. During his final days, work on the strip had fallen to various assistants, and Kelly characteristically joked about returning to work as soon as he regrew the leg.

Alan Walter is a retired professional engineer living in Oxford. He was born in Wales and worked in Halifax. He spends much of his time in Oxford, where he operates a small farm. He can be reached at alanwalter@eastlink.ca.
 

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