This political season has been rife with those wonderful things we call gaffes. Gaffes are errors in speech that tend to cause political negativity. Some gaffes can be utterly ruinous, like Howard Dean’s “Byaaaah!” Some gaffes don’t seem to make sense as gaffes, like Howard Dean’s “Byaaaah!” Some gaffes come from ignorance and misinformation, like Michele Bachmann’s claim that HPV vaccines caused mental retardation. Some gaffes are meant as harmless by the socially unaware person making the gaffe, like Mitt Romney’s $10k bet or his talking about how many cars he owns.
And then some gaffes are the truth.
These are, really, a subset of the gaffes that don’t seem to make sense as gaffes. These “gaffes” often come from a singular sentence taken grossly out of context due to that sentence by itself not being quite specific enough. The most recent case of this “gaffe” is President Barack Obama’s “You didn’t build that” speech.
While I can’t, for some reason, find the entirety of the speech at the moment, “The Daily Show” actually has a pretty good coverage of the speech, as well as the accusatory coverage and fallout from the speech.
Basically, for those unaware, in a speech about business and individual efforts in America and the like, Obama, in the middle, used the sentence “You didn’t build that.” Jon Stewart makes the argument that, clearly, Obama was referring to the roads and other infrastructure used to benefit businesses. I interpret it a little more broadly. To me, he was saying that business owners, large and small, have benefited from the entire American machine one way or another. Somehow, other people have helped. Teachers giving you the information, roads to drive on, loans to start your business, tax breaks, maybe a public library, use of the internet… It goes on and on. These days, so much infrastructure has been laid out that it is pretty much entirely impossible not to have a business that benefits from it in one way or another. Some ways are clearly far more directly benefited. Others are a bit more fringe. But the benefits are there nonetheless.
Opponents and critics of Obama, however, have been taking that singular sentence, “You didn’t build that,” to attempt to paint Obama as anti-business, particularly anti-small business. Their argument is that Obama is besmirching the great individuality and personal drive of American entrepreneurs by daring to suggest that they can’t pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. If those are even still a thing.
However, I would like to counter such arguments, as dishonest as they may be. To argue so vehemently against Obama’s speech is to besmirch and spit upon the American nation. It is to laugh at the ideas of unity, of working together to accomplish great things. It mocks the possibility of American greatness. Instead, they head for the ego, telling Americans they can all be part of the 1% if they try. Telling Americans that greatness is achievable for everyone, and apart from anyone else.
It laughs at the very idea of “these UNITED states.”
The GOP has worked very hard to make the government look like the big bad in this election. A tactic I don’t quite understand, as they’re hoping you’ll pick them to run the big bad, but it seems to work alright. The problem I have with this is, while the government can in fact be a big bad, they’re part of America. The government, like Soylent Green, is people. And if that spoiled anything for you, I refuse to apologize. The American people work in both the private and public sectors. Teachers, police, even government officials are just as important to the country as investors, business owners and the average minimum wage worker.
America is all of us. All of us work together. Can’t we just agree on that simple fact?
And, maybe, just maybe, can we just pick something honest to complain about? I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: We need to stop the political deceit. If you want to complain about someone, pick their actual stances. Don’t make stuff up.