Live Together, Die Alone

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.

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11 thoughts on “Live Together, Die Alone

  1. I don’t ever expect politics to change. I don’t trust the Republicans or the Democrats. Actually, I don’t think I would trust anyone who actually could get elected to office. To get elected, one must have the characteristics of a chameleon – they must cater to whatever audience they are currently addressing. For anyone firmly grounded in principle, this is impossible. Therefore, we are left with those who are willing to do anything to get into a position of power. Unsurprisingly, these are the same type of people who tend to abuse power. That is why I would prefer the government to remain as small as possible. Centralized power is the recipe for intolerance and oppression.

    • To quote Lost again, “It only ends once. Everything up till then is just progress.”

      I agree that many, if not most, politicians are less than trustworthy. However, we face enormous challenges in regard to our economy, environment, resource consumption, foreign policies, fiscal policies and health care policies. Losing faith in our institutions and giving up is no solution to these problems.

      Furthermore, I believe that President Obama is firmly grounded in principle. This is obvious to anyone who’s actually taken the time to read his books and watch his speeches.

      However, since we have three co-equal branches of government in our country, he hasn’t been able to implement many of the policies he supports. That doesn’t make him a hypocrite or “sell-out.”

      As for your claim that “centralized power is the recipe for intolerance and oppression,” I’d like to remind you that the Federal Government was responsible for ending segregation. “States Rights” was the rallying cry of the Jim Crow south. I suggest you get your facts straight, learn from history and rethink your position on this issue.

        • I believe that President Obama is firmly grounded in principle. This is obvious to anyone who’s actually taken the time to read his books and watch his speeches.

          However, since we have three co-equal branches of government in our country, he hasn’t been able to implement many of the policies he supports. That doesn’t make him a hypocrite or “sell-out.”

      • The federal government was also responsible for the Japanese American internment camps during World War II, no?

        • I’m not arguing that the Federal Government has never made any mistakes, that would be asinine. However, it has been on the right side of history more times, especially in regard to civil rights issues, than any individual state government.

          It’s also important to remember that Japanese-American internment, while deplorable, was an extreme, temporary measure taken during war time, not a long-term social policy aimed at permanently disenfranchising a minority group. They’re not really on the same scale.

          • The above is a blanket statement, and a matter of opinion.

            If a person does not like the laws in a particular town, that person can move to a different town. If a person does not like the laws in a state, that person is free to move to a different state; however, that, obviously, is more difficult. If one doesn’t like the laws of a country, that person (in most cases) still has the option of moving to a different country, though this is more difficult still. I believe that power should be a decentralized as possible to maximize choice.

            • I think you should go back and check your facts. It’s actually extremely difficult to immigrate to another country unless you have an extremely rare and special skill set.

              Also, please explain to me how decentralization of federal power, “maximizes choice.” In what regard? This seems like specious reasoning.

              • I completely agree. It is very difficult to immigrate to another country. Therefore, one doesn’t have much choice when laws are enacted at a federal level. When enacted at the state level, one has the option of moving to a different state. That is still difficult, but easier than changing countries. It is even easier to move to different counties and/or cities. This is why I believe in decentralization of power. If one doesn’t agree with a law, that person if free to move. This increases choice. The federal government should focus on protecting the rights of people, and leave the rest to the lesser jurisdiction.

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