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Once upon a Time, you stood for something

BY MATTHEW HEINZE - GUEST OPINION | DECEMBER 17, 2010 7:30 AM

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Leave it to Time magazine to once again flub up its "Person of the Year" award. This year's lucky recipient: Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook. It makes one wonder: Wouldn't he fit into 2006's winner, "You" (in reference to open-content developers throughout the Internet)?

Excuse my feigned interest in Time's dying annual award, but apparently it's still used as a benchmark for yearly review in some parts of the world where the economy is still bustling. Oh, and by "bustling," I really mean "crawling."

This is not to say Zuckerberg has been especially undeserving. Certainly no one would argue Facebook isn't a ubiquitous powerhouse. But even if you argue Facebook's contributions have been exponentially more important than other social-communication innovations in recent years (such as Twitter or YouTube), might you still agree that Facebook is not the most notable aspect of news, culture, or interest over the past year?

There are countless politicians and leaders, activists and entertainers, innovators and power brokers among us who are more deserving of this honor. This year saw one of the worst ecological disasters in human history, a momentous change in health care, and financial meltdown in Greece and abroad. And yet, Time still had the nerve to point at Zuckerberg in a crowded room and say "that guy."

Time, you failed to mention Julian Assange, who has, and looks to continue, gaining momentum in sharing corporate and government secrets. It doesn't matter if you consider him a whistleblower, holding the powers that be responsible, or a terrorist of the digital age; Assange has created a following of "leakers" that are here to stay. And for that reason alone, he is the most important character in the world right now.

But perhaps your most glaring omittance is working-class America. How did you not come away with the striking story of unemployment in this country? Are your editors just that disconnected? Did you not see how this economy is wreaking havoc on the lower and middle classes? And it's not just happening in Detroit or big cities. It's happening all around us.

My father works at a factory that produces wind turbines and is the prototypical American working-class man. He's blue-collar to the point that he wears his work jacket (adorned with his company's logo) whenever he heads into town, taking enormous pride in producing the wind turbines that will "someday power America."

And yet my father was laid off, and his fate looked similar this past summer — all while working in the alternative-energy industry, something supposedly untouchable in this economy. The future looked volatile, and his company was considering even more cuts. Thankfully, his company was recently purchased by a leader in alternative energies, ending my father's employment fears (if only for the moment).

What's worse is there are tens of thousands of Americans who aren't as lucky as my father. They head to work today with no guarantee of work tomorrow. They fight in the trenches of this depression and often don't fare well. They are America's mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, and are certainly more deserving of this petty award.

Matthew Heinze is a University of Iowa junior.


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