Tumbling Down

Screen Shot 2013-09-30 at 11.52.30 AMAs I write it seems very likely that for the first time in almost 18 years, the United States government will be shutting down.  Unless some kind of agreement is reached between the House and the Senate, a good number of services will cease, national parks will close, and thousands of federal employees will be furloughed.  The last time we saw this kind of brinksmanship was back when Mr. Gingrich was Speaker of the House.

I am not qualified to speak authoritatively on this impasse.  I’m just an ordinary citizen.  From my perspective, however, the problem seems to be with a small group within one party who are holding their own party and the rest of the country hostage until the get their way.  These folks seem convinced that Health Reform, despite the fact that it is the law of the land, must be stopped – apparently at all costs.  According to their public statements, they are sure the majority of Americans agree.

Pardon me if I have missed something, but I thought our government was supposed to function as a democratic republic, not as a parliamentary democracy.  In Great Britain a small group within a coalition government can behave this way because they are needed to maintain a majority in the House of Commons.  It’s not supposed to work that way in the American system.

I’m old enough to remember how Lyndon Johnson managed to get the Civil Rights Act passed (and funded) despite resistance from Southern Democrats.  As stubborn as Strom Thurmond and his ilk were, even they couldn’t manage to shut down the government.  Back then, the rest of our elected leaders wouldn’t put up with that kind of behavior.

I was already concerned that my own representative, Mr. Southerland, has been championing cuts in food stamps (SNAP) as a moral imperative.  He seems to think that the $4.50 a day in benefits that children in low-income families, the disabled, the elderly and a few single people receive is morally corrosive.  For the life of me, I can’t see what’s moral about increasing hunger in a nation of plenty.  When I call his office, the staff is courteous and gracious.  They seem to listen, but I doubt my objections are making much difference.

It’s hard to offer a coherent word about behavior that seems so incoherent.  I could quote the myriad passages of scripture which refer to justice and hunger, but the passage that keeps coming back to me is the story of Sampson.  He defeated his opponents by bring the entire temple crashing down on them.  Unfortunately, he also brought the temple crashing down on himself.

When the rubble clears from this imbroglio, nobody will be the winner.