Over and over again, in the mainstream media as well as in real life, people use improper grammar. I used to use bad grammar as well, and once in a while I slip back into my bad habits, but am always quick to correct myself. It’s likely that you, too use bad grammar. It isn’t exclusive to one region or one demographic group. Even the most intelligent, sophisticated and educated people are guilty of this, so it’s quite widespread.
So let’s begin the grammar lesson.
The bad grammar to which I am referring concerns pronouns. When people speak about the government, they erroneously use pronouns that include themselves, and if they are in the presence of others or are broadcasting themselves through various media formats, they are including their viewers, readers or listeners. For example:
“We invaded Iraq.”
Really? We? I didn’t invade Iraq, and I bet you didn’t, either.
“Our troops need to come home.”
If they were really our troops, they’d probably be home by now, or would not have been sent overseas in the first place. The troops are not mine or yours. In fact, once they sign the recruitment contract, they are the sole property of the U.S. government for the duration of their tour of duty.
The government, whether it be local, state or federal, is not part of who we are. The government’s relationship to the average citizen is not that much different from the relationship between a farmer and his livestock. Here’s another good one, very common even among the least ignorant:
“Why should my/our tax dollars pay for this?”
Your first mistake was believing you somehow still had some sort of ownership of the money that was stolen from you. When a mugger steals money from someone, that money no longer belongs to the victim, it now belongs to the thief. Yes, citizens do get back some of their stolen money in the form of goods and services such as roads, police protection (when they’re not engaged in revenue collection, asset forfeiture, brutality and kidnapping), emergency services (except for FEMA, who may take a few days to determine if an emergency is present), transportation infrastructure, and other services. But providing these goods and service has much more to do with appeasing the public and keeping them from protesting in the streets than it does with actually serving the public.
Do you know how I know that the money stolen from me is no longer mine? The fact that I don’t get to say how it is spent. If the money was mine, I’d still have it. So let’s examine the above statements once more, this time with proper grammar assigning proper attributes:
“U.S. troops invaded Iraq.”
“U.S. troops need to come home.”
“Why should federal/state/local tax dollars pay for this?”
It’s easy to slip up and say our or us when referring to the government. Most of us have been conditioned to think of the government as an extension of our collective wills, hopes and goals. But when you look at any level of government, does it really look like something that reflects your will, your hopes, or your goals? Was it your will to spy on peoples’ phone calls, emails and text messages without probable cause or a warrant? Did you hope to violate the U.S. Constitution through the creation of countless federal agencies? Was one of your goals to kill people in a country you may not even be able to find on a map under the pretenses of liberating them?
I didn’t think so. They weren’t mine, either.
So make a conscious effort to use proper grammar. And when you hear someone using improper grammar, correct them and explain why it is wrong. The Soviet Union did not fall because of U.S. military might, or the success of NATO or the Cold War. It fell because the Soviet Union’s citizens lost respect for the government and enough people stopped acknowledging the authority of the Soviet Union and demanded the individual “member states” secede from the Union. For decades, they had been told they lived in a “peoples’ republic”, implying that the Soviet Union was an extension of their own selves. They most likely used improper grammar as well. But they eventually realized the Union was not a reflection of the wishes of the average Soviet.
If enough people can make the emotional and psychological disconnect from the actions of the government that rules over them, we may one day be able to live in a society that accurately reflects our wills, our hopes and our goals.