By Steven J. Moss
This year’s presidential election has triggered passionate debates over the purpose of government, or even whether it should exist at all. Stirred by the intensity of the arguments, I decided to do some research, turning to the most potent source of information on the topic: movies and television. After carefully studying fifty years of crime procedurals, films that feature big explosions, and made-for-TV tear-jerkers, it’s clear to me that government is essential. To script writers, at least.
Government gives us an array of bureaucrats that provide the critical glue to numerous plots. There’s the paper-pushing Department of Motor Vehicles or Unemployment Insurance worker, who, after a citizen stands in line for hours, quickly declines their request, or goes to lunch just as they step up, snapping down the shade at their service window. Or the immigration agent, who wearily, says “Welcome to America. Next!” after stamping some documents with a hard snap. And of course who can forget the sympathetic, over-worked, overweight parole officer or welfare case worker, who is powerless to provide any real help, but keeps a snack drawer full in their cubicle so they can offer their depressed client a sugary soda or candy bar. Once these people are gone, we’ll never get them back.
Then there’s the brilliant government scientist, or harried environmental regulator, who, staring at the screen of their 1970s-era computer, discovers that a meteor is heading towards earth, and must be stopped; a bone-crushingly large corporation is adding a chemical to the water system that compels us to buy their products; or, in fact, we’ve all been turned into robots, we just don’t know it yet. These characters are irreplaceable. Really, what would we do without them?
And then there’s our entire legal system, chockfull of colorful, critical, characters. The avuncular judge, who, by raising just one of his extra-hairy eyebrows, can quiet a courtroom. The dim-witted county sheriff, whose large stomach perennially leads him in the wrong direction, but it’s always hilarious. The corrupt Drug Enforcement Administration agent, who can’t help but sample the product he’s supposed to be policing. And my personal favorite, the California Highly Patrol officer, who rides the state’s freeways, handsoming things up with his stretch pants and jack boots. Our democracy, or at least essential plot twists and close-up shots, depends on these folks.
I could go on. The sleezy senator, who is essential to taking the bribes that allow that water-polluting corporation to continue its nefarious deeds; the crack, or crazy, Navy Seals, who are always at the ready to shoot a villain, or former friend; even the local dog catcher, who ensures that a wayward, but heart-stoppingly cute, animal always escapes his slapsticky grasp. His antics allow society to sigh a collective prayer, “Ohhhhhhhh…”
Most importantly, without government who would keep the fact that UFOs have been visiting the earth since Truman was in office a secret? And, when those same UFOs invade the earth, who would portentously announce that reality on all three television networks, plus Fox news, before scuttling into his presidential bunker with the Secretary of Health and Human Services to ensure that the human race continues to be propagated? When those aliens arrive on earth, and request to be taken to our leader, where would we send them? Steve Jobs, after all, is dead; Richard Branson will likely have already taken off in the opposite direction. I suppose there’s Donald Trump, but he actually ran for President, in real life, so, really, can he be trusted? Hard to say. Hopefully, we’ll never have to find out.
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