Notes from the 47%

As most of you know, this week Mother Jones released a video taken at one of Mitt Romney’s fundraisers this past spring.

The footage has created quite a stir in print, video, digital, and social media, particularly regarding the following quote about 47% of the country (the 47% who don’t pay federal income taxes): “There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent on government, who believe that, that they are victims, who believe that government has the responsibility to care for them. Who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing…”

Not a pretty statement and not, as Romney himself has admitted, elegantly worded.

This isn’t a political blog. Yes, I’m interested in issues such as environmental protection, human rights, and education. Yes, I personally lean pretty far to the left (it bears noting, however, that I’m not registered with either party). Still, my intent here isn’t to write about scandals or protests or policy. There are smarter people who have dedicated their careers to getting that information out there.

But. I do take issue with the reduction of nearly half the country to a statistic. And that holds true when either side does it. I think where we fail as a nation — ethically, socially, politically — is when we ignore each other’s stories. We let other people become numbers and numbers don’t have faces. They don’t have lives. Or stories. Someone’s story is what allows me to get a glimpse into what it’s like to be them. It gives nuance to the numbers. It increases our understanding of why people behave as they do.

So today, in the interest of sharing stories, I’m linking you this blog:  We Represent the 47 Percent.

Yes, the title is a little reminiscent of the Occupy Movement, but that’s okay. The content is what’s important here. Because this blog is a collection of letters to Governor Romney addressing why these writers — or someone dear to them — are part of the dismissed 47%. These are stories worth reading.

(I don’t care, by the way, that this was a private fundraiser. I think it matters what our politicians say behind closed doors, to people of their own party. I think it genuinely matters what we think of each other in this country. And as I said, it bothers me on both sides. Dehumanization is always a problem, maybe most especially when it’s a rhetorical strategy.)

For my own part, I’ll admit I got a full federal tax refund last year. (And the year before that and the year before that . . . ) But when the time comes, I’ll have no qualms about paying my taxes and letting the government keep every penny. Because that money is paying for programming and initiatives that matter.* And I don’t think anyone’s a victim for taking advantage of those opportunities.

*Yes, they’ll also go to things I disagree with, like military spending. But that’s part of living in a democracy. Which, I’d argue, is worth it.

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