(I am not a student of government; I don't pretend to know the ins and outs of what goes on in the higher (or lower) echelons here in Washington. This is just my gut reaction to the goings-on we've been subjected to in the past few weeks...)
Okay. I'll say it. "Uncle". That's what you say when you have had enough and just want the game to end, isn't it? I am tired--very tired--of this particular game. And discouraged and dispirited and despairing.
I grew up in what I believed to be the greatest nation on earth; we were the envy of the world in high ideals, ambition, and achievement. When other countries faltered, we were there to shore them up with our support, both physical and financial--and military, if it came to that. We were, if not the savior of the world, at least a force for good therein.
We have taken a beating. The years have not been kind. Today we find ourselves beset on every side. Instead of being the big brother the world could depend on for help, many countries find us to be interfering and pursuing our own interests at their expense. Perhaps we are, to some degree, but I still think the American people see themselves as being helpful, supportive, generous, and ready to defend the underdog. The world is growing up, though, and like rebellious teen-agers, countries are rejecting anyone who helped along the way. Us. We are now the bad guys, to be avoided and thwarted at any cost. We are the enemy (although we can still keep that disaster aid and financial support coming..)
And now, it's not just other countries who have decided to wallop us into submission: it's our own politicians. It is difficult to assign responsibility here, and I'm not sure I want to. I am a lifelong Democrat and a supporter of Obama and his hopes for America. His leadership makes me proud to say the pledge of allegiance, proud that we have an intelligent, articulate man in the White House--and proud that Americans were far enough removed from the trials of the '60s to actually elect a black man to our highest office.
Perhaps that was a pride that came too early. It seems that the divisive Congress now in session is unwilling to support President Obama in any program he espouses. I do not understand how this can be happening. I was taught in my civics classes in grade school that we the people have a government with three branches, which, with their system of checks and balances, prevent us all from going to hell in a hand basket. Congress initiates and passes laws; the executive branch approves (or alternatively, rejects) those laws; the judicial branch reviews and interprets them. And, with all three of these branches working in concert, we as citizens have an orderly and dependable government that is responsive to our changing needs. Change may depend upon the somewhat slow pace of the election cycle, but I have always trusted that the will of the people would prevail eventually. Our election process (and the representatives and the president and ultimately, the Supreme Court) is the primary tool of the people that ensures the orderly process of government and has made us the proverbial city on a hill that others have aspired to. Nowhere is it said that one branch or another could hijack the process and hold the citizenry hostage to accomplish its own agenda.
Our tools have been turned against us. Somehow Congress has lost the concept of collegiality and has turned into a kindergarten classroom of selfish children, who have forgotten why they are there. There appears to be a new mutant version of congressman that appeared around the last election: one who doesn't understand the job, who thinks that personal beliefs and/or prejudices supersede the oath of office, who repeatedly takes the short-sighted view of whatever issue, ignoring and/or not caring about the country at large in favor of pleasing a limited constituency as narrow-minded, self-serving and intransigent as he. The common good has fallen victim to personal advancement and self-aggrandizement. Stubbornness and unwillingness to listen have sabotaged the discussion and compromise necessary for any form of legislative process. As a teacher, as a parent, I find myself wishing I could sit these children in their respective corners until they learn to 'play nicely' with one another. Or maybe clean up the mess they've made.
The idiocy and small-mindedness of the shutdown is only compounded by the arbitrariness of the actual effects. The barricade of trails and monuments, the litanies of what's open, what's closed, the focus on Congressional perks that have not been cut off vs. the ones of the general public that have, the interviews of those who are impacted, the interviews of determined congressmen and the equally determined opposition, the inexplicable feeding of the divisiveness that is at the root of the problem.
If as much effort, as much print, as much airtime went into encouraging cooperation and compromise as has gone into undermining those attitudes, we might not be where we are.
The irony of all of this is that no one is winning--least of all the citizens who elected this gang. The politicians have their onscreen moments, the media have their proverbial field day, newspapers have plenty to write about and all the human interest stories that the public can stomach...but the public has smaller (or non-existent) paychecks, fewer benefits, even the loss of recreational facilities like our national parks. Our slowly-recovering economy is heading, lemming-like, for the cliff yet again--and no one seems to be listening to the Cassandras who are prophesying dire results. No one seems to be listening to anything anymore: not each other, not the warnings, not the bells that may be tolling the end of life as we Americans know it-- and have known it, for at least my lifetime. We are betrayed, and we are the betrayers. We have taken all our gifts and all our ideals and all our hopes for the future and turned them into a circus for the world to ridicule. We should be ashamed. I know I am.