I’ve been staring at the screen for quite awhile now, trying to figure out how to make the first sentences of this post really stand out so people will be willing to step away from the angry noise surrounding the government shutdown and pay a small bit of attention to something I have to say. But I can’t think of anything with that type of ‘Wow!’ factor, so I’ll just dig in and hope that someone will discover my whisper among all the partisan shouting.
I want to start off by sharing two posts I’ve seen circulating on Facebook. I think these posts explain a lot about our current Congressional stalemate.
In one post, it is implied that Republicans are terrorists. In the second post, Democrats alone are being blamed for the shutdown. The people I saw sharing these posts are not members of Congress, deflecting blame to the other side of the table to save their own skin. These are people who self-identify as conservative or liberal, fanning the flames of partisan politics by their insistence that Them is All Bad and Us is All Good. And that, friends, is one of the reasons the government has shutdown.
We have a shutdown because, like it or not, our government is a reflection of us. Congress is not made up of individuals who magically appeared as our overlords. These members of Congress made it to where they are because they were elected by their constituents. And, if their constituents believe that the Other is All Bad, how can we expect the elected members of Congress not to reflect that attitude? After all, reflecting the attitude and priorities of said constituents is what keeps these Congresspeople in office, and that’s where they want to stay.
It is so much easier to cast a villain and a hero than wrestle with the fact that two (or more) good people can vehemently disagree on what is best for this nation and still be good people. Us only wants what is best for the country. Us gets it. Us knows how to fix it and would be able fix it if Them would just get out of the way. Them is selfish and short-sighted. Them is, at best, stupid, without understanding of what needs to be done. At worst, Them is evil, with an agenda designed only to benefit Them and oppress Us. And on and on it goes, ad nauseum. If we cannot hold civil conversations with people who are ideologically different than us and walk away from said conversations knowing everyone was heard and respected, how can we expect our elected members of Congress to do so? If we surround ourselves by those who think just like us and mock those who think differently, how can we complain that our members of Congress find it nearly impossible to cross the partisan aisle? If we look at the Other and see Them as All Bad and Us as All Good, how can we expect Congress members to find common ground from which to work towards a compromise?
Much in the same way that children often reflect those who raise them, Congress is often a reflection of those who elect them. Certainly there are political corruptions that affect Congress and have nothing to do with us average people. But let’s take an honest look at the big picture and realize that this is a wake-up call for us as individuals. Instead of pointing fingers at who is to blame for the current shutdown, let’s figure out how we can work together to make sure no one goes without something they might need if the shutdown lasts for awhile. Let’s start having respectful, meaningful conversations with people outside our ideological bubbles. Let’s open our eyes to the truth that good people can disagree with each other and that doesn’t make one of them bad. Let’s take responsibility to fix our government by fixing ourselves. Let’s stop letting fear control us. If we don’t work on ourselves first, we’re just going to keep fighting, keep fearing, keep blaming, keep Othering, and we’re going to teach anyone watching us that the only good people are people like Us. Carried to its ultimate conclusion, that type of thinking results in unspeakable atrocities. So, let’s stop this nonsense and get together to solve our problems before our problems get worse.
Fear leads to anger; anger leads to hate; hate leads to suffering. – Yoda