Monday, August 08, 2011

America, We Have A Problem

This is a piece I posted on Facebook a few days before Congress screwed the pooch on the debt-ceiling compromise. Looks like you're going to have to squint to read it, so here's a recap. That first little Venn diagram shows that the government--the people we elect to office--is a subset of all Americans. If someone wants to argue that point, bring it on.

The second Venn diagram illustrates what I consider a problem (and by the way, of all the things I've forgotten from junior high math, why isn't the Venn diagram one of them?). The problem is that most elected officials think that being elected lifts them out of the set they came from. As the diagram shows, they think Washington orbits the rest of America. This isn't a good thing. If they feel they don't have to work for the greater good of the entire country (because, say, they're in the pockets of corporate interests), then who will? Who's going to protect us from the people we elected? Who's going to bring these people down to Earth where they came from?

Here's another part of the problem. Too many Americans also think Washington orbits the rest of us. Too many people have forgotten that the government--and the power it holds--comes from us. Thus, we hear constant griping: "The government can't do anything right," "I love my country but don't trust my government," "If you think [whatever] is screwed up now, wait till government gets a hold of it." And those who gripe are naturally going to be highly susceptible to the Tea Party message that "the government" is the problem.

If you can't point to any examples of your elected officials working on your behalf (or if elected officials actually do do something on your behalf and the opposition manages to make you think exactly the opposite--hello, admittedly flawed healthcare bill), then hell, no wonder you think of the government as your enemy.

This has to change.

We have to stop thinking that our elected officials are somehow above the rest of us. Sadly, this probably means we'll have to stop thinking that way before the elected officials do. We have to start thinking of the government as "us" instead of "them." That's the kind of thinking that led to the safety nets of Social Security and Medicare. That's the kind of thinking that led to consumer protection and worker safety laws. That's the kind of thinking that's going to get us out of this "Every man for himself" mindset.

Social Security isn't the government helping us. It's us helping us.

Universal healthcare isn't a socialist* plot. It's us helping us.

Our elected officials aren't "them." They're us. Or they're supposed to be, anyway.

There are people who say we should leave everything up to the vagaries of the free market. I say those people are worshiping at the wrong altar.

If we don't start electing people who will stand up for us, our elected officials might as well start wearing the logos of the corporations who are sponsoring them.

*The use of scare-words by corporate tools will be covered in a future entry.

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