Insomnia pondering

“Rivlin is not my president.”

I saw this in the comments section of a news story on photo-shopped Nazi images that have been passing around with Rubi Rivlin’s image superimposed on them. For some reason this one stuck with me and I found myself pondering it, as I am known to do.

I obviously have to start with a couple of assumptions, and yes, I know what they say about assuming. The first assumption is that the person who wrote this comment was Israeli. I don’t know that they were, but one can kind of figure here, because if they weren’t, why the need to make the comment in the first place? The second assumption I am making is that this is someone who, for some reason, disagrees with things Rubi has said. Now that the comment section won’t be filled with “How do you even know he’s Israeli, you jerk face.” I will continue to share my pondering.

I personally started hearing this kind of comment during the presidency of George W. Bush in the States. It was thrown around quite often by many on the left of the political spectrum. I hear it now all the time among people on the right in the United States in regard to President Obama, as well as hearing it quite often from people on the left in Israel in regard to Bibi.

People just throw it out there. He’s not MY president, as if to say, I am not responsible for what he is doing. The problem with this sentiment is two-fold. First, it’s just plain wrong. As citizens, as voters, we have entered into, what Rousseau called, a social contract. We give our individual sovereignty to a government which acts on our behalf, with our consent. Now, what does this consent consist of? In different societies throughout history it has consisted of different things. In our society today though, it consists of popular vote in some kind of poll. By taking part in the process, or not, we consent to this social contract. What this means is that we all share equal responsibility in the government we get. The second reason that this is so problematic is that if we disconnect ourselves from our government’s actions, we free ourselves from guilt, we free ourselves from responsibility and we free ourselves from the imperative to work for the political leadership that we want. It lets us off the hook.

Elections are our way to show what the government should be. I didn’t vote for President Bush, but for better or worse, he was my President. I was just as responsible for the things he did that I disagreed with as any citizen who voted for him. I didn’t do enough to get Gore elected. I didn’t convince enough people. I didn’t do enough work. Had I done more, things might have been different. Those who oppose President Obama’s policies didn’t do enough to convince Americans that his was not the best way. They are just as responsible for his policies as I am. This is the way democracy works and it is the way the Social Contract works. It makes sure that all sides of the political spectrum work for their goals and it is how we advance as a society. If I am not responsible for the government’s actions then I can be apathetic about it. If I understand that the government’s actions are based on legitimacy that I gave it, that it’s actions represent me, then I must fight to do the most I can to make sure the government represents my values. It pushes me to make it better. It should push all citizens to make their government better.

When we disconnect ourselves from the body politic, we give up the value of our personal sovereignty. We give up our reason to fight.

I voted for Barak Obama, he is my president, the actions of the government of the US represent me. I didn’t vote Likud, but Bibi is my prime minister, the actions of the government of Israel represent me.

Don’t turn your back on the Social Contract.

P.S. I know that in Israel the position of President is not elected by the general public directly, but it is still the outcome of the parliament elections, as the Knesset votes for the President.

P.P.S. Clearly I have duel Israeli and American citizenship. Ah, Duh.

About the Author
Michael Hilkowitz holds degrees in History and Secondary Education from Temple University and is a graduate of the Philadelphia High School for International Affairs. He is currently a Masters student in Security and Diplomacy Studies at Tel Aviv University. Living in Israel since 2012, he formerly served as the Chief Content Office for The Israel Innovation Fund, a 501.c.3 working to promote Israeli culture, art, and humanities innovation abroad.