Remember the ancient story Aesop told of the ant and the grasshopper?
The ancient version is as you remember. An ant works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter. The grasshopper thinks the ant is a fool for the grasshopper lives only to sing, jump around, and eat the plentiful leaves of summer. He doesn't work hard to acquire or save provisions. Come winter, the ant is warm and well fed. And the grasshopper, without food or shelter, dies out in the cold.
The moral of the ancient tale, of course, was to "Act responsibly and you'll reap just rewards." Or, "Beware of idleness; it brings want and shame." Or "To work today is to eat tomorrow."
But here's a version (I've tweaked it a bit from the one Michelle Sullivan passed it on to me) of how the story might play out in 21st century America. Here goes...
The ant works hard in the withering heat and the rain all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter. The grasshopper thinks the ant is a fool for the grasshopper lives only to sing, jump around, and eat the plentiful leaves of summer. He doesn't work hard to acquire or save provisions. Come winter, the ant is warm and well fed. And the grasshopper...
Well, come winter the shivering grasshopper complains to the mayor and his Congressman. They join with several directors of social service bureaus and call a press conference to denounce the ant's greed and cold-heartedness. They demand to know why the ant should be allowed to be warm and well fed while the grasshopper is cold and starving. Television crews show up to provide dramatic pictures of the shivering grasshopper next to a video of the ant in his comfortable home with a table filled with food. America is stunned by the sharp contrast. How can this be, that in a country of such prosperity, this poor grasshopper is allowed to suffer so?
Kermit the Frog appears on Oprah with the grasshopper and everybody cries when they sing, 'It's Not Easy Being Green.' ACORN stages a demonstration in front of the ant's house. The Reverend Jim Wallis has the group kneel down to pray for the grasshopper's sake -- after having harshly condemned the lack of compassion and justice shown by the ant.
President Obama soon condemns the ant and intimates that the ultimate blame for the grasshopper's plight falls on Republicans who have denied the social schemes promoted by Democrats to redistribute wealth. He proposes raising taxes on the ant and others in the "privileged class" so that government can hire more social service workers, create more programs and committees and provide more economic perks for the grasshopper.
Finally, the EEOC drafts the Economic Equity & Anti-Grasshopper Act and makes it retroactive to the beginning of summer. Bureaucrats sift through the ant's building permits, hiring contracts, storage procedures and come up with several infractions for which the ant must pay heavy fines. It seems his carbon footprint is too big. He has also violated a United Nations treaty that he had never heard of so and is subsequently sued by a couple of publicly-minded NGOs. Finally, he is fined for failing to hire the grasshopper to do some of his (the ant's) work projects and to set aside certain goods to be given expressly for the community's (the grasshopper's) use.
But now having nothing left to pay his fines and retroactive taxes, the ant's home is confiscated by the Government Green Czar and given to...the grasshopper. The story concludes with the ant disappearing, perhaps to commit suicide, perhaps to become a government-supported layabout himself, maybe to emigrate to a country where initiative, industry, thrift and virtue are still treasured.
Then the scene shifts back to the grasshopper. It is now a few months later and we see he and his freeloading friends finish up the last bits of the ant's food. The government house he is in which, as you recall, used to be the ant's house, is crumbling into disrepair. Things are ugly. In fact, later in the year, the grasshopper is found dead in a drug related incident. His house is taken over by a gang of spiders who terrorize the once prosperous and peaceful neighborhood.
The moral of the modern tale? Take your pick. 1) The Nanny State is a nightmare. 2) Contrary to what the AFL-CIO tells you, Democrats are no friends of workers. 3) The hardworking citizen may want to consider investment (and even retirement) plans in Poland or Malta. And finally, 4) It really, really matters who you vote into office.
For my part, I'll choose all of the above.
Make sure that you pass this on to other ants. Don't bother sending it on to any grasshoppers because they wouldn't understand it, anyway.
Thanks again, Michelle.