I really, really did not want to write about the U.S. government shutdown.
There are plenty of other topics I’d rather be discussing in my weekly column like Burger King’s new “Satisfries,” my wariness about the upcoming sequels for both “Dumb and Dumber” and “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” (can they really outdo the originals?), or the start of the NHL season, although from our data (yes we have data!) there aren’t too many hockey fans among our readers. As you can tell, I’d almost rather write about anything else. For whatever reason, though, I feel compelled to write about our government’s latest impressive display of what I like to call “not governing.”
If I’m being honest, my reticence in writing about politics is not only because I’m more interested in other topics, but also because it’s hard to write about politics without coming off as a fool. While Laura is able to do it well by incorporating her personal experiences and being acutely aware of the limitations of our (and every civilian’s) knowledge about the inner workings of government, I don’t feel that I share these strengths. If a writer (like me) doesn’t possess these traits, they must be granted a significant amount of time in order to read in-depth — not only about the particular issue at hand but also about all of its ramifications — in order to formulate an informed and insightful argument, as well as to fortify that argument against the objections that will surely be leveled at it. And, unfortunately, this amount of time is something I just don’t have right now.
Another difficulty with writing about politics is that as soon as an event like the government shutdown takes place a flurry of well-written and insightful articles (along with some other not-so-good articles) are published almost immediately. Therefore, unless you’re one of these people paid to write about politics, your point has probably already been made in a more cogent and enlightening fashion than you could have ever hoped to do or you end up writing something bitter partisan that only serves to further divide the American public.
For example, just in the last couple of days, there were informative articles both on why Congress still gets paid during the government shutdown while “non-essential” government employees won’t get paid and on the nine most painful impacts of a government shutdown. There were also poignant articles on what we’ve done to ourselves by electing “people to govern us who do not believe in government.” In addition, there were compelling articles suggesting that we are moving further from a democracy and ever closer to a plutocracy if we aren’t there already. And that is only a snippet of the articles penned in the wake of the shutdown.
Without these writers’ time and resources, I simply can’t compete with these articles, but it’s OK. I never intended to write from those informed and argumentative positions anyway. What has pushed me to write this is not an incredible solution to all these political woes or a piece of information that I simply must share with you. Rather, I simply write from a position of exasperation, for it is a complete exhaustion with the current state of affairs that has led me to feel the need to break the promise to myself of staying out of political discussion.
With each passing day and each ridiculous impasse that our government provides for itself, my exhaustion leads me further and further toward a general apathy with the whole thing. I’m just not sure what other reasonable response to all this there is any longer. Although I’ve read (what to me) are plenty of reasonable solutions for every clusterfuck the government gets itself into, none of them are ever chosen by the government. And while this is frustrating, my continued attempts to apply reason to a collection of the most child-like and irrational people in our country increasingly seems like a fool’s game.
Of course, it’s not just our hapless leadership that promotes my increasing apathy. Their inability to accomplish anything that might help those in their states or districts can’t be blamed on them alone (even though they deserve plenty of blame). There are plenty of outside forces that have everything to gain from their inactivity.
For one thing, our insane 24-hour news cycle encourages conflict and partisanship. The major news networks have a vested interest in turning government into a reality TV show because hostility and division create better ratings than compromise and solutions would. If it didn’t, Bill O’Reilly and Rachel Maddow wouldn’t have jobs. And, as we all know, better ratings equals more money.
Further adding to the madness are the lobbyists whose ability to sway senators and representatives to act (or more likely not act) for their big-money interests is far more effective than the pleas of a civilian. And these are only two outside forces. I don’t have time to chronicle and unpack the rest of them, but know that there are plenty more at work.
Whether you like the Affordable Care Act or not, it’s a law that has already cleared all the procedural and legal obstacles to implementation. The assault by House Republicans on the legitimacy of the law is something that is without congressional precedent. The Democrats are in the right not to negotiate about this because that stage in the process has passed. But, as they are wont to do, they’ll probably cave and compromise with the petulant faction of House Republicans behind this shutdown.
To be clear, though, even though I do see the Republicans to be at fault here, I don’t identify with either party anymore. The Democrats have been in the wrong before (as well as unbelievably spineless) and both parties will be in the wrong again sometime very, very soon. The point increasingly becomes less about who’s right and who’s wrong and becomes about how we can hold our government officials on both sides of the aisle accountable for their decisions (or, again, lack thereof).
The most sensible thing would be to stop reelecting these partisan incumbents into office. Stop reelecting
ol’ crazy eyes Nancy Pelosi and well-worn catcher’s mitt John Boehner. But we know by now that sensible options are off the table. So many of the districts that these representatives come from have been gerrymandered to the point where they no longer have to fear that a challenger of the opposite party might be able to unseat them. Meanwhile, senators serve preposterous six-year terms and can be reelected as many times as the voters deem fit, which is how we end up with an increasingly aging and out-of-touch Senate.
So what are the remaining well-intentioned and rational people of in our country to do? The way things are headed right now it looks like it will get worse before it gets any better. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing left to try, even if we aren’t sure that the outcome will be successful.
We should stop playing the blame game when it comes to political discussion. We should fight to avoid apathy because it hasn’t and won’t get us anywhere (I’m working on this as we speak). We should recognize that we aren’t as divided as the media would like to portray us as being and would like us to believe. We should keep thinking of ways to try to hold our government accountable.
Of course, none of this will be easy. It will be a challenge to keep all of this in mind when you hear about whatever mess Washington creates next. It will be a challenge not to immediately assign blame to one side or the other. But, even with all of these things working against us, we should still try.
I wish you way more than luck.
Previously from Charlie Crespo:
♦ Viral Video of the Week: Fly Like an Eagle
♦ The Rise of Ryan Tannehill
♦ Upcoming Changes to Little Utopia
♦ How Should the NHL Structure the Upcoming Champions League?
♦ Frankenbride; or, The Contemporary Prometheus