Drake: Sentiment behind Romney gaffe serves as reminder of U.S. privilege

Former Gov. Romney’s blunder calling 47 percent of Americans “victims” has left many outraged. True, his comment was hardly the smooth politically correct line one would expect from a presidential candidate. Despite his poor choice of phrasing, however, Americans need to recognize the truth in Romney’s words.

Romney worded his speech poorly; victimizing half of the United States population is no way to win votes. With that said, if one separates his insulting word choice from the idea he presents, there is truth in his view.

Yes, America is experiencing a relatively high rate of unemployment. As of August 2012, unemployment is at 8.1 percent. Poverty has stabilized at 15 percent. U.S. citizens, however, remain among the wealthiest in the world.

Do you want to complain about being among the 99 percent? Take a step back. Anyone born in this country, no matter how difficult life is or how low income is, has access to institutions and opportunities that those born elsewhere may not.

Do you want to complain about being unemployed, about living at or below the poverty line? Every student on campus is all but guaranteed to live above the poverty line and be working a part-time job or working simply as a student.

If someone can afford to attend Geneseo, they are far better off than millions of other people in the world. Geneseo students have access to education, readily available food and relatively low living costs. They have the luxury to be outraged at a poorly worded offhand comment.

I am not trying to suggest there isn’t need for aid to reduce unemployment and poverty in America. I am suggesting, instead, that we consider the larger picture.

For just a moment, remove oneself from the typical, individual-based American perspective. There are people just across the border who are watching their children starve, as everyone in the family lucky enough to find a job works for wages drastically below our minimum wage. Can any American citizen honestly say they are worse off?

I can’t disagree that Romney’s phrasing was poor at best and insulting at worst. His speech sounds high handed, is addressed to the wealthy and panders to an audience whom he is likely turning to for campaign funds.

He plays perfectly into the audience’s position of wealth and status, but he had the misfortune of being recorded and having the audio leaked to a wider audience of less fortunate means. What that says about Romney as a person or politician is a topic for further debate.

Romney’s sentiment itself should be recognized for the grain of truth that lies beneath. Yes, America faces a difficult economic time – comparatively. It is easy to become so engrossed in our own lives that we lose touch with the bigger picture, and that is exactly what we should try to remember. America is a land of opportunity, and no offhand comment or gaffe should let us forget that.