Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Incredibly True Tale of the Goverment Employee Who Really Does Care about You

I was in my car listening to NPR on my way to work when I first heard the news about the IRS violating its own policy by targeting conservative political groups for extra scrutiny.  I spend a lot of time defending The Government to my conservative and libertarian friends, so when I heard about this massive screw up, I reacted exactly the same as Jon Stewart does in this clip:

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Throughout the day, I kept checking headlines to see if some good news could come of this. There must be some misunderstanding.  When no good news reports about the scandal surfaced, I turned to Jon Stewart, as I often do when I'm feeling overwhelmed by shitty real news.  Maybe Stewart could explain the situation in a way that gives me hope.  If nothing else, he's good for a laugh when it feels like the only other option is crawling into a fetal position and sobbing. 

Did Stewart's words help me feel better?  Nope.  Just more jokes about unethical, corrupt government jackasses hard at work making a mockery of the system.  But really, what did I expect from Jon Stewart?  What more is there to say about this scandal than Motherfucker!

It makes me think of another comedian who deftly criticized the government, George Carlin.  I don't agree with everything Carlin ever said, human beings are complex individuals and prone to imperfection and judgment, but Carlin's rants are honest.  Here's one I don't always agree with, but I nod my head and say motherfucker! when I watch it on bad news days like today:

Sooner or later, the people in this country are gonna realize the government does not give a fuck about them! The government doesn't care about you, or your children, or your rights, or your welfare or your safety. It simply doesn't give a fuck about you! It's interested in its own power. That's the only thing. Keeping it and expanding it wherever possible.  --George Carlin

But hold on.  Carlin is right in cases like the IRS targeting conservative political groups.  But a few misguided people in one government agency does not mean the government is full of power-hungry jerks.  

I'm a part of good government.  I've worked for the county for twenty years at my library gig.  Taxpayers pay my salary.  It's my job to help all patrons, regardless of their political persuasion, regardless of how much I might personally disagree with them on how our society should operate.  Just because I think Bill O'Reilly is a pompous blowhard and I'd rather pluck my eyelashes out one-by-one than be forced to read his latest book, it's my job to be aware of it--to read reviews of it and pay attention to how popular it is in our community.  I don't have to subject myself to the cruelty of reading it myself, but if someone asks me for a good read and they tell me they like other conservative pundits' books, I don't point them to my favorite political books, I point them to books by guys like O'Reilly.  The number one trait I must exude while being a government worker is this: empathy.  Guess what the number one trait I must exude while being a decent human being is?  Empathy.  If you lack empathy, you'll be a shitty employee no matter where you work. 

Yes, as in business, there are plenty of government employees who make flagrant errors and ignore rules and operate unethically.  But let's not talk about Government like it's one entity.  Some of us who work for the government really do care about you, even when we disagree.