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Write of Passage

Maureen Connors Badding arrived in Wauwatosa 22 years ago via Buffalo and Phoenix. She's a freelance writer and habitual volunteer who enjoys book clubs, travel, entertaining and cheering for her daughter's swim team.

When did sacrifice become un-American?

energy, mass transit

Last week, the Japanese government asked its citizens to save energy by taking quicker showers; specifically, they recommended cutting showers by one minute.

I find this an exceptional request for two reasons. First, I have read that the Japanese traditionally take a quick shower in a shower stall, and then soak in a tub full of hot water. It's not a long soak, because they try to keep the water warm for the next person who's going to soak in it.

That's right, people who practice the ultimate in recycling by reusing their bath water are being asked to take even shorter showers for the good of their country and the planet. It would not surprise me in the least if most Japanese would follow their government's suggestion. 

Second, I can't help but think that any American official making the same request would be ridiculed incessantly until he made a public apology and blamed the whole ugly incident on a bad reaction to prescription allergy medication.

Americans of late are not into the whole “sacrifice” thing. Commuting 40 miles every day in an 8 mpg Hummer - when clearly there is a limited supply of oil - has become a symbol of individual freedom. Images of Jimmy Carter donning a cardigan and turning down the White House thermostats have become a punch line.

We're in a war that's lasted longer than any other American war and cost more than we can begin to fathom, and yet there is no suggestion from the administration that we turn down our thermostats, carpool, drive 55 or less or - God forbid - ration gas.

Locally, we're told our goal should be a car in every garage and a wider highway, even though the one we have now is perfectly adequate to carry cars to the Illinois border for the next 40 years. Does anyone even ask us to carpool or take the bus when it's an ozone action day?

It would be great if our president, governor or county executive would ask us to make small sacrifices to save energy. But it would be even better if we all did it because it's the right thing to do.

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