The great 20th Century philosopher Alfred E. Neuman of MAD Magazine fame could not possibly have realized that his "What, Me Worry?" mantra would at some point become the rallying-cry of an entire commonwealth.
With few notable exceptions, Pennsylvanians are in an advanced state of denial concerning such volatile topics as taxes, health care, energy, education, transportation and the environment. Despite efforts aimed at creating greater awareness of the need to take an intervening role, there are few indications that the message is resonating.
Even supporters of the Tea Party initiative have expressed concern that the wait-and-see attitude that seems to exist statewide is thwarting attempts to head many runaway issues off at the pass.
"People I talk to are convinced that once the economy improves, that all these looming challenges will go away one-by-one," a community activist told me. "They don't want to believe that this could all come crashing down. It's scary."
Not scary enough, apparently, to create a sense of urgency. Historically the most common route of addressing problems with legislative overtones has been by beating on the doors of elected officials. Aren't they, after all, the people in the best position to take the lead when things go wrong? Evidently not.
On Wednesday, state Sen. John H. Eichelberger Jr. held a town meeting at The Park at Morrisons Cove to discuss the commonwealth's budget deficit, shortfalls in funding related to transportation and the impending crisis related to state pensions.
For information or to register for Friday's Issues Forum, call 943-8151 or register online at wwwblairchamber.com
Twelve people showed up.
Any of those issues should have generated a public outcry for immediate action.
All of them will have an enormous impact on Blair County's ability to continue to offer a comfortable standard of living, a competitive business environment, quality education and numerous other advantages that slowly erode with the growing insistence that somehow, if we do nothing, everything will somehow still be OK.
"It's not a good time at all. There's very little good news financially anywhere," Eichelberger lamented.
He didn't need to share that insight. The evidence is all around us.
It doesn't seem to matter.
Shooting the messengers is probably preferable to ignoring them. At least it's an indication that someone is paying attention.
It's incredibly frustrating to continue to point out the obvious and see little indication of a public pulse.
Fortunately, no one is giving up.
On Friday, the Blair County Chamber and the Pennsylvania Economy League are co-sponsoring an educational program on the tax implications that may result from the state pension crisis. Eichelberger along with state Reps. Rick Geist and Jerry Stern will be there. It's time they know how you feel.
It's long past time that you acknowledge the importance of sharing it.
Joe Hurd is the executive director of the Blair County Chamber of Commerce.