Unhappy With Your Government? Look in the Mirror

We hear a lot about government waste these days. I mean, it isn’t exactly a new sentiment but with the current levels of corporate welfare, the populous anger and the 24 hour news cycle (who’s always ready and willing to add fuel to the fire); well, I feel like there’s just no hope for our government.

Just like Howard Beale in the movie Network: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

Thing is, I can’t bring myself to blame my representatives any more than I blame myself. As a citizen I play an important role in our democracy. That means that I’m equally responsible for this mess – and I’m happy to share the responsibility with all of my fellow Americans.

You see, we’ve all created this situation. Not just through our votes but through our daily actions. Over time we’ve developed a national identity that boasts how we’re better off when markets compete; when we compete. We believe so wholly in this market identity that we no longer consider ourselves citizens, we are consumers. As consumers we compete with each other and whoever dies with the most toys wins.

Our pursuit of happiness is so consuming that we turn a blind eye when that pursuit tramples over our neighbor’s happiness. As they say in reality TV, “I didn’t come here to make friends, I’m here to win.” Outsmart, outwit and outlast is often more like out-lie or out-cheat – oh, and get out without getting caught. Like the drug abuse in athletics; the infidelity and graft of the powerful or the banks’ abuse of bailout money – our zealous competitive spirit is setting the nation’s course.

Competition is also the basis of our love affair with free enterprise. This love is such that often you hear the plea to run government like a business. Businesses don’t have to worry about being harassed on the Sunday morning talk shows or dragged into court for every decision they make. Entrepreneurs are hailed as superheroes because of their ability to take on risk like taking a breath of air. We forgive their failures with our bankruptcy laws because we believe they’ll get it right next time. So surely that would solve the problems of waste and corruption.

Only; in our role as citizens we aren’t comfortable with risk and we don’t trust swift decisions. We punish failure instead of forgiving it. We demand transparency and accountability. All of this is very un-business-like. We actually demand the very bureaucracy we decry; mockingly we say, “I’m with the government, and I’m here to help.”

But we are a government of the people, by the people and for the people. So let’s accept the responsibility assigned to us and instead roll up our sleeves, pitch in to help each other and honestly proclaim, “I’m the government too and together we are the help our nation needs.”

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