12/08/2006 04:39 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Legalese for not Giving a Sh*t

So, the House Leadership remained "willfully ignorant" of Mark Foley and his crimes. No criminal negligence here. Simply, um...

They didn't give a shit.

Let's take a moment to talk about willful ignorance. How the road to every human catastrophe is bystanded by those who don't care enough to do anything to help. I know you can't make someone care. You can't force people to work for the greater good. But for the past seven years, we've experienced what it's like to be run by an entire government of the "willfully ignorant." A government that exists for power and profits and cashing in as quickly as possible.

As we asked after Katrina, is it too much to ask of our elected reps to actually give a sh--about human life (that's not a fetus)? When you are in charge, it just cannot be OK to be willfully ignorant.

I'm left wondering: is premeditation really worse than indifference? I suppose it has to be. But no one should confuse indifference with innocence.

The Question of the Truck

In an interview with Ed Bradley, Toni Morrison said something a few years back that really stuck with me. "With very few exceptions, I feel that white people will betray me," she said. "If the trucks pass and they have to make a choice, they'll put me on that truck." She goes on to say that there are black people who would put her on the truck as well.

I've done a lot of thinking about this truck. I don't feel as Dr. Morrison does that I will be betrayed by whites. I have encountered people of several races that gave me the distinct feeling that if something cataclysmic went down, they would leave me to die. And I have had more black people than white people make a point to my face that I don't belong in the group. But I think about this truck. A lot.

The problem is, many of us have real or ancestral experience with what happens when the majority decides that somehow you are less, you are subhuman, that you are the enemy, that you are nothing. Throw darts at a world map and anywhere you land, you'll find vulnerable people whose fates are affected by the desires of the powerful.

In this day and age, I'm less worried about being rounded up than I am about being left behind. I am less afraid of malice than I am of indifference.

You're In or You're Out

In 2004, voters famously said that if given the choice, they'd have a beer with Bush over Kerry. I remember watching clips of Bush with his staff, and with journalists, joking around, being, I dare say, likeable. I could understand how people who shook his hand and looked him eye to eye, and then were the butt of one of his playful jokes, could be seduced. Everyone wants to be favored by the powerful.

For a long time I've been afraid of President Bush. I could see that that the President had charms. But there was a catch. You had to be part of his circle. If you were part of the circle of folks important to him, then you could have his attention, his time, a share in the resources. Loyal friends are in this group. Supporters. Saudi Princes. You simply must be part of the circle. Then you get the best George (or at least, you used to. I don't think he has good days anymore). But if you're not part of the circle, woe be to you if you need help. You won't exist. Some might say you're part of the lucky if simply don't exist. The unlucky ones get the sights trained on them.

Yes. To be ignored is to be lucky sometimes. Until you need his attention. Such as in a national emergency, and you are powerless to save yourself, and your state and local government is powerless to save you, and you're hoping to God the buck will stop at the Leader of the Free World's desk. About that time, you're hoping that your President gives a shit as to whether you live or die.

I am afraid because I am not part of his circle. Maybe he wouldn't throw me in the truck. But he'd sure pass me by.

A Note about the First Black President

Given what Dr. Morrison said about the truck, I find it even more striking that she christened President Clinton the first black President. Unlike some former past Presidents, President Clinton actually cares about people who come from outside his very large, welcoming circle. He is someone who sees the God in everybody. Unless forced to, he has never been "us vs. them." If you were to ask me the main reason I like President Clinton, my reason is as primal as it gets: he'd never throw me in the truck. And he wouldn't throw you in, either.

Just Say No to the Willfully Ignorant

So, when it comes time to vote again, I'll be thinking, hmm, who'd be the least likely to leave me stranded for five days on my rooftop? If a dirty bomb, or some other awful catastrophe hits my city, who'd actually give a shit as to whether I lived or died? Luckily, first responders everywhere are just that--first responders, and these men and women are the main heroes in an emergency. But the brass still counts. As tough and prepared as we'd like to think we all our, the reality is that there might be a day that you'll need the government to come through for you. Hopefully the leaders will have brains, spines, and hearts big enough to care for more than their immediate intimates.