For me, last night’s State of the Union address will forever be entwined with next week’s season premiere of Lost, and not just because of the much publicized scheduling conflict between the two television events. As strange as it sounds, ABC’s sci-fi inflected drama and the President’s moving oration share a common theme.
By imploring Congressional Republicans to cooperate with Democrats on confronting the many, critical concerns facing our nation, President Obama echoed the rallying cry of Lost ‘s motley crew of castaways: “live together, die alone.”
Following the crash of Oceanic Airlines Flight 815, the survivors find themselves marooned on a mysterious island in the South Pacific. Several days pass and cabin fever begins to set in. As tensions run high, a scuffle breaks out, prompting former trauma surgeon Jack Shepard to assert himself as the group’s leader.
After separating the two combatants, Shepard admonishes his newfound flock, “We can’t do this. Every man for himself is not going to work. It’s time to start organizing. We need to figure out how we’re going to survive here. If we can’t live together, we’re going to die alone.”
Likewise, speaking on behalf of all Americans last night, President Obama declared, “They are tired of the partisanship and the shouting and the pettiness. They know we can’t afford it. Not now…we face big and difficult challenges. And what the American people hope – what they deserve – is for all of us, Democrats and Republicans, to work through our differences; to overcome the numbing weight of our politics.”
A similar sentiment arises from both of these appeals. Each leader is beseeching his people to resolve their superficial or ideological differences in the interest of ensuring their mutual survival and shared prosperity. Like the American people, the Oceanic survivors came from diverse backgrounds and represented a wide-range of beliefs. And like us, they faced “big and difficult challenges.”
But, out of necessity, they banded together to divide labor, delegate responsibility and otherwise forge the bonds of a functioning society. Over two hundred years ago, a bold group of Americans from throughout the thirteen colonies made a similar pact: the Declaration of Independence. It’s time for us to renew those vows.
Retaining our position as global hegemon in this burgeoning century will require a massive investment in our future. We must fix our country’s crumbling infrastructure by repairing our dilapidated roads, bridges, dams and public transit systems. We must amend our unsustainable economic, environmental, energy and health care policies. And we must fight against the growing culture of distrust and cynicism that is suffocating our democracy.
Unless we unite to overcome these obstacles, our nation will collapse under “the numbing weight of our politics.” Live together, die alone. It’s that simple.