Robin Williams once said “the United States is the one country that labels politics for exactly what it is. ‘Poli’ is from the Latin root meaning ‘many’ and tics are blood-sucking parasites.” In our country, especially when times are hard, we have a tendency to blame the government for all of our problems. People protest, political commentary erupts in the news and Congress is labeled as a body of greedy, squabbling fools. It seems as though passing a bill that benefits either political party is impossible from the day it is drafted.
This is a very selfish viewpoint. What many Americans fail to take into account is that our government is not only vital in many ways, but it is the thing that sets us apart from every other nation on Earth. It is a government that, for all its faults, is motivated by the desire to live in a country where opinionated debate and ideas allow us to grow and prosper.
It is almost an American trait to take the government for granted. We live day to day with little appreciation for the things our government does to benefits us, while taking every chance we have to criticize someone in a public office. What we do not realize is that even the ability to express our opinions about who is running the country is something our government viciously protects.
In addition to freedom of speech, there are many government programs we are quick to forget when something is not going the way we want. Health codes, for starters, allow us to work in conditions much better than many other countries in the world with standards that keep employers from abusing workers and creating sweatshop environments.
The government does construction projects on highways and interstates as well. Although it seems like construction work takes forever and exists simply to bog down traffic for no apparent reason, the roads we use every day would not even exist without the government’s ability to construct them. This goes for firefighters and police as well. These are invaluable services for which there is no replacement. When you turn on the news and see a fire raging in an apartment complex or a bank robber pointing a gun at a teller, imagine what it would be like if there were no cops or firefighters.
Consider the justice system. The entire U.S. court system is maintained and kept in check by Congress and the president. Landmark cases have shaped the way our society lives. Cases like Brown v. Board of Education, which debunked racial inequality in schools, or Miranda v. Arizona, which established the list of rights given to people accused of committing a crime. In Tinker v. Des Moines the court ruled that students retain their right to free speech even in public schools. The fact that these ideas can even be presented before an impartial governing body and they can be defended by equal representation is because of the laws set down and enforced by our government.
People often complain about tax hikes and unfair payments made to the government for things they don’t use, but according to a study by Business Pundit, we have lower rates of taxation than countries such as Italy, France and Germany. What must also be taken into account is that our country is in a financial crisis that was brought about due to the housing market, something the government allows citizens to pursue on their own with relative freedom. In essence, it is not the government’s fault we are in a recession, but when they ask for taxes to help us fix it, we become angry and critical of their practices.
The government defends us, gives us opportunities to go to school, keeps our workplaces safe, keeps dangerous chemicals out of our food, prevents racism and gives us the freedom to publicly criticize it for the way it does so. Consider countries around the world saying negative things about the government is a crime. Consider people in China who are taxed when they have more than one child, or people in North Korea who are not even allowed to leave the country. We are blessed with a government that defends our individual rights and freedoms with everything it has. True, the system is not perfect, but it is these imperfections that allow it to grow and change.
As citizens of a country based upon freedom for the common man, we need to take into account everything the government does and has done to give us the life we currently lead. So the next time you are ready to criticize the government, consider that it was the government that gave you the right to express your opinion in the first place.
By Ryan Stevens
Graphic By Eva Kiviranta