Those who live by sound bites die by sound bites.
That may be our epitaph.
Our society seems unable to grasp and grapple with the real issues of living. If it can't be put on a bumper sticker or shouted in a few syllables, we don't see, hear or consider it.
The latest such three-syllable message or slogan is "Class Warfare."
At least it provides material for comedians like Jon Stewart. Recently The Daily Show ran in rapid succession what seemed like an endless number of video clips of various Republican politicians, spokespersons and pundits saying or whining: "Class Warfare."
This well-orchestrated sound bite was in response to President Obama's proposal for an ever so slight tax increase for the wealthiest Americans.
On every talk or news show there was someone mouthing these three syllables in an impressive display of synchronized whining.
Sometime back the prevailing whine was "Bush bashing." This was the response to the slightest bit of constructive criticism of then President Bush, such as questioning the questionable invasion of Iraq.
Whining can be a very effective tactic, for kids, in the short term. But for adults and for the long term, it doesn't wear well.
Compare us with the Greatest Generation on any number of issues but particularly taxes for the wealthy. They were adults; they weren't whiners.
For 20 years, starting during WWII, taxes on the wealthiest were at 90 percent or above, except for one year when they dipped into the 80s. The highest percentage was 94. And we can't even consider a slight nudge upward from 35 to 39.6.
Yes, JFK did lower taxes on the wealthiest, from 90 to 70. But this was only after we paid off WWII debts, had the Interstate system up and running, and financed the GI Bill that sent millions of veterans to college and largely created the middle class. We also helped war-devastated Europe and Japan rebuild.
Now, 50 years later, we can't seem to do anything other than pool money mainly in the hands of a few who want to pay no taxes if possible. What is the big difference between the wealthy of the Greatest Generation and the wealthy of our generation?
One difference is patriotism. The wealthiest back then helped fight and win the big one, as all families had someone in the war.
And those with wealth did not use their considerable influence to lower their taxes to next to nothing. Instead, in a very real sense, they "volunteered" their financial services, contributing to the common good, to the country, at a very high rate for two decades.
This was an extreme version of the volunteering Warren Buffet is advocating today: a higher tax rate for those most able to pay.
But we can't even do what little Warren Buffet and President Obama propose because they are drowned out by the Class Warfare Whiners. Some generation we are.
(James Lein is a community columnist for The Minot Daily News)