There’s a little scene in The Newsroom that hit me in the gut, when I recently watched the premiere. Mackenzie MacHale (what a mouthful of a name!) says:
“There’s going to be a huge conversation. Is government an instrument of good or is it every man for himself? Is there something bigger we want to reach for or is self-interest our basic resting pulse? You and I have the chance to be among the few people who frame that debate.”
Sitting on the couch this morning, reading the news, one can’t help but feel that this comment is very timely, given Mitt Romney’s recent declarations in which a serious hate-on for nearly half of his would-be constituents was revealed. As reported by the BBC:
The Republican candidate is shown saying that the 47% of Americans who back the president do not pay income tax and would never vote for Mr Romney.
“There are 47% who are with him [Mr Obama], who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.”
I make no claims to being even remotely surprised by Romney’s comments. What dispirited me was the blatant smack in the face that this suggested about the role of government, of civic duty, towards actually improving the lives of others. Not everyone has an easy ride in life. I see people struggle in Australia every day, and know just how completely rogered they’d be without a civil service that gives as much of a damn as this one does. And to see Romney – purely through his comments, besmirch an institution whose purpose is to help others.
Rather than suggest that Romney’s comments are selfish or cynical, I would actually suggest they’re simply disrepectful, to the history of one of the most important countries to have stepped onto the world stage in the last half-millennia, and disrespectful towards the body politic that he would wish to govern.
And it makes me sad to see that this is what it’s come to: we’re now trashing the very thing that exists to help us, and that we once upon a time said made us great.