. . . Now, the real work begins

<p>A recent political cartoon shows an outgoing President George W. Bush holding the door open to a refrigerator full of putrid, rotting food, and next to it, a dishwasher overflowing with dirty plates, cups and spoons.&nbsp; The contents of the refrigerator and the dishwasher bear the labels "Banks," "Economy," "Wall Street," "Housing," "Credit," "Consumer Confidence," and "GM."</p>
<p>The cartoon also shows Bush saying to a distressed-looking President-Elect Barack Obama, "You know that old saying, 'to the victor belong the spoils?'"</p>
<p>Indeed.</p>
<p>Much of the impetus behind Barack Obama's victory earlier this month was voter dissatisfaction, check that, voter disgust, with the state of the economy, which in recent weeks has trumped everything -- high gas prices (which have actually fallen precipitously in recent weeks), the endless war in Iraq, the precarious state of the environment or the deplorable perception of the United States abroad, all of it -- as THE major concern among the electorate. However, these issues have not gone away, and addressing them will present major challenges in the weeks, months, and even years to come.</p>
<p>As the giddiness immediately following the election has begun to recede, replacing it is the realization of the magnitude of the mammoth task which lies ahead.&nbsp;&nbsp; The truth is, the economy is a mess, and will be for the foreseeable future.&nbsp; Gas prices will rise again (they have to), more brave soldiers will die in Iraq and Afghanistan (remember, we're fighting a war there, too), millions of Americans will continue to be without adequate health care (or access to any at all), etc., etc., etc.</p>
<p>Of course, along with the global credit and financial meltdown are detrimental, oftentimes crushing effects on the lives of everyday people. &nbsp;&nbsp;Many individuals and families are barely holding their heads above water, if that.&nbsp; &nbsp;It can be difficult to conceive, let alone care, about how remote concepts like biodiversity and climate change, or even sustainability in general, have any real bearing on everyday existence.</p>
<p>But of course, they do, and it is essential that we do not lose sight of the bigger picture or of the longer term.&nbsp; A lot of what precipitated this mess was short-sighted thinking (Hummers as commercial vehicles, anyone?), along with the relentless (obsessive!) pursuit of ever increasing levels of term-on-term profit for its own sake.</p>
<p>Or in plain English - greed.</p>
<p>We made an important first step in electing Barack Obama and giving him the support of a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress.&nbsp; This should at least somewhat facilitate the process on the federal level of addressing the many challenges ahead and actually making things happen.&nbsp; Good for us.</p>
<p>But even in his acceptance speech, Barack Obama demonstrated clear insight in to the monumental task he faced, and remember, he called on us as Americans to do our part.&nbsp; So, as the President-elect assembles his Cabinet so that he can actually do the job he was elected to do, we should prepare as well, if only by throwing out the spoiled food.&nbsp; Or in other words, dispensing with the notion that one's duties as a citizen begin and end with casting a vote.</p>