At what point do we cross the line between dependence on the government, and taking care of ourselves?
On October 7, 2016, Hurricane Matthew visited my town. When we woke up on October 8, most of our beautiful beach was gone, all of the homes on the beach lost their foundation, and hundreds are still trying to recover from devastating loss. Shortly after the hurricane, someone started a Facebook page where those in need could ask for help, and those of us who could help volunteered. It was a truly remarkable thing to watch; this small community totally dependent on tourism coming together to put itself back together. And we did. Fast.
In today’s paper, I read that the City Commission voted to allow water bill relief for some who experienced a hurricane-related leak or another issue. I thought, “That’s cool.”
But that government aid is supplementary for the city. Those who could have already moved forward with repairs and recovery thanks to friends and neighbors.
I started thinking about how much we all rely on the government to take care of us. We really do. We expect that they will build roads and bridges that are safe, we expect that they will watch our transportation systems and protect us from harm. We look to them to rescue us after a natural disaster. We trust (sometimes) that they will make economic decisions that allow us to maintain our lifestyle. We expect that their trade decisions will allow us to have any kind of food and produce available in our grocery stores at any time of the year. We look to the government to keep companies honest in treating employees fairly. We expect a lot.
I took a little mental trip to a time when, if there were a hurricane or other natural disaster, there was no government to pick up the pieces. Either it was before government existed, or because of the huge number of agencies developed over the years to address our needs for safety, protection and privilege had not yet been established.
Back then, citizens would rally together and fix things. They had no choice. Sometimes, their devastating losses meant the total ruin of their business and there was no one to give them aid. Their neighbors helped, or didn’t. Life went on.
Perhaps I am jaded, but I think those days also built strength and resilience. When you have to acknowledge and fix your own problems, you learn, grow and become stronger.
Do we really want to be victims?
Personally, I like being strong, and I am strong because of the challenges I have successfully overcome. I don’t want to be a victim; it makes me sad and hopeless.
Today, as I read what is left of my Facebook feed (I’ve unfollowed those that make my blood pressure boil) I can’t help but think that we have become a population of victims. Those who are active in special interest groups are bemoaning the possible loss of government protection, and they don’t really even know if that protection is at risk. So, they protest.
What’s interesting is the degree of energy that exists in those who are protesting.
Have we crossed a line?
Special interest groups have lobbied hard and used their energy to convince the government to build an infrastructure that protects everyone. Much of that infrastructure is a bright, shining light of hope for those that may not have had hope. I can vote. My friend can marry his partner. There are consequences for an employer treating me poorly. There are laws and first responders to keep us safe. Everyone can speak their mind, even when it hurts others.
But perhaps we have gone too far in enabling victimhood. Perhaps now is the time to carefully consider what is the government’s role and what is our role. By legislating an easy mortgage for first-time homebuyers, are we robbing young people of the joy of the first small walk-up apartment? By offering our privileges to those who do not pay taxes, are we overburdening those who do? By talking about abortion as a reproductive right including the use as birth control, are we minimizing the responsibilities of adulthood?
There are no easy answers to any of those questions. But we can use all of the collective energy to rail, accuse, and blame, or we can use it to have a healthy and honest debate about what is good for our country. It’s our choice.