We all know that many of our fellow citizens think of the U.S. government as being some sort of remote entity – a far-off monster that sucks up vast quantities of their money and gives little in return. To address this perception, there have been several good posts on GovLoop about the importance of demonstrating all the benefits that government does provide. But with the current citizen mindset, it’s going to be hard to get that message across.
So, I propose that we also start by making a pronoun change.
Right now, when politicians, or the media, or U.S. citizens, or even most federal employees talk about the U.S. government, they usually refer to it as the government. The government, as in: that thing over there apart from us.
But if we instead routinely refer to the government as our government, then, suddenly, the picture changes. No longer is government something remote and apart. Now, it’s ours. And if, when addressing U.S. citizens, we also sometimes referred to government as your government, this would also help to emphasize ownership.
That recognition of ownership changes the dynamic in an important way. If it’s our government, then we now have a shared responsibility to make it as good as it can be. If it’s your government, then no longer does it seem appropriate for you to merely criticize. Instead, this suggests that you and I and our fellow citizens should all be part of its operation.
Admittedly, even if this pronoun usage became universal overnight, it would in no way fix all of the problems we face. But it would help us get past the idea that the American government is apart from us, and also help to promote the understanding that our government is our shared tool – a tool that we can use to build a better future.