An Impersonal Approach Makes Everything Personal

Michael Hagan ’15

I’ll begin by immediately acknowledging President Barack Obama’s closing statement from the Tuesday, 10/16 Presidential Debate for what it was- a calculated final strike, a trump card held until the very end of the hand, the ace closer in the President’s rhetorical rotation. It was very much the right move at the right time, and because of that, it is easy to dismiss or gloss over.

“…when [Governor Romney] said behind closed doors that 47 percent of the country considered themselves victims who refuse personal responsibility, think about who he was talking about.”

Do not dismiss it. Democrat or Republican, decided or undecided, wonky or apolitical, heed the President’s suggestion here. Consider who is written off in statements like the one Mitt Romney made to donors about federal benefits recipients. Consider how statements like this replace individual identities and stories with the label “parasite.” Consider the “us vs. them” mentality that shapes and proceeds from such language.  Consider the implications that mentality has for our political climate. When politicians are willing to write-off and alienate such large slices of our population, it is no wonder that Congress is at a standstill while Presidential Debates nearly become fistfights. When one tries to strip another of his identity and reduce him to a label, it gets personal.

Whether it’s Mitt Romney writing off as parasites a group that includes the elderly, veterans in need, the sick, the disabled, the temporarily unemployed, and the generationally impoverished, or a Democrat making derogatory generalizations about top-earners despite the charity, willingness to play by the rules, and well-channeled talent of so many, the corralling of unique individuals under inherently unjust labels is destructive. It runs against the egalitarian spirit of America Victorious that drove such sweeping social change in the post-war decades. It divides united people into factions. It congeals the great melting pot. It draws the lines for European-style class struggle.

Fundamentally though, this kind of labeling reduces rather than celebrates the individual person. Far reaching implications aside, this pervasive practice is unacceptable, and ought to be rejected no matter who employs it.

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