We all belong

The narrator in a video presentation from the DNC said “Government’s the only thing we all belong to”.

And of course the GOP practically fell over itself claiming that this means the Democrats think the government “owns” all of us, and that obviously explains the policy difference between the two parties. “We don’t belong to government, the government belongs to us,” tweeted Romney’s campaign (I have no illusion that the candidates are actually writing those).

It’s very telling that Romney’s proxy tweeters don’t think he belongs to the government: they think he OWNS it. Presumably since he OWNS the government, he can sell his share in it for a profit when he is done saddling it with debt and charging it millions in management fees, which was the Bain modus operandi.

Of course, as usual, theirs is an out of context misinterpretation. The very next line:

“We have different churches, different clubs, but we’re together as a part of our city, or our county, or our state – and our nation.”

Why wasn’t there a complaint about how aren’t “owned” by our churches? Where was the uproar about us being “owned” by clubs? It’s only if you intend to deliberately and disingenuously claim that Democrats believe we all “belong” (as in being members of) churches and clubs, but we “belong” (as in being owned by) the government, mixing up the meanings halfway through the sentence, that this makes sense. Within the context of the rest of the speech it is quite clear that the statement being made is that we are ALL part of the government, we are all members, we all belong. It is “We, the People”, after all.

I agree with the statement. I do belong to the government of this country, Mr. Romney, in the same way I belong to the ACLU, MN Atheists, and Americans United for Separation of Church and State. None of these organizations own me, but one of the privileges of my membership and inclusion means I get a voice in influencing what each of those organizations do.  That’s what belonging means:

I get to vote.

And part of my membership also means that I support the work that they do, with my time, my skills and my money. That’s also what belonging means:

I pay my membership dues.

The ACLU doesn’t own me, and just as with the government, if a majority of us decide we no longer support their goals, we can change the rules. We can even dissolve the club and start another one: if everyone renounced their membership in the ACLU and stopped paying dues, the organization would go away. The powers of government in this country are given to it by the people; by the same token, they can be taken away.

We, the People (the members of government), took a vote in 2008 and made a statement that we didn’t like the way the club was being managed, so we changed the management. We didn’t all agree with that statement, and we don’t all agree today with everything the new management has done. As is our right, thanks to our membership, this year we get to make another statement about the way the organization is being managed.

In this video, one of the groups is very clearly making the statement that they proudly claim me as an active member of the management of the club. Another group hisses and recoils at this inclusive statement, because they prefer to point at management as the source of all problems, while obscuring or denying the fact that they are as much a part of the management as I am. And that it was they, not some mystical “other”, who had a significant hand in causing the problems in the first place. And that whatever problems exist, it is only with all of our help that they can be solved.

I won’t consider membership in a club whose management are so ashamed of themselves that they can’t bring themselves to admit they are members in the first place.

I am a U.S. citizen. I belong to the government, in the same way one belongs to a club, to a church, to the ACLU. And because I do, I pay taxes instead of playing shell games to obscure the benefits I have gained from that membership.

And because I belong to the government, I vote.

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