I don’t wish to anger anyone but this latest government shutdown has taught me something I long suspected, but now know for a fact – most people have no idea what they’re talking about when it comes to our government though they think they do. They just want to preach.
I cover politics, and have for years, and I don’t know. But I want to and I speak with politicians daily to find out what’s going on.
Others do not and still tell me they know more than I do – though I often times possess first hand knowledge they do not have.
I cannot tell you the number of times people have told me what was said in the White House briefing room – though I was there and they were not.
I smile and often just ignore those claims though they seem to be as valid as walking into a doctor’s office with no training and diagnosing what’s wrong with the patient.
But that’s not all that bothers me.
When I was a small boy the world seemed so large. It was writ big, the movie stars, the pop stars, and the politicians.
It took something to be someone. You had to have “It” whatever “it” was.
Now the world seems small.
Everyone is a star on a reality show, or is on national television promoting themselves with some kind of pseudo talent.
And our politicians – they’re the smallest.
The night Martin Luther King Junior got assassinated in Memphis I remember Bobby Kennedy’s speech in Indianapolis which made my parents and grandparents cry and which impressed upon me as a young child the role political leadership must play in our country:
"In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it is perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in.
"For those of you who are black—considering the evidence there evidently is that there were white people who were responsible--you can be filled with bitterness, with hatred, and a desire for revenge. We can move in that direction as a country, in great polarization--black people amongst black, white people amongst white, filled with hatred toward one another.
"Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to comprehend, and to replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand compassion and love.
For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and mistrust at the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I can only say that I can also feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man.
"But we have to make an effort in the United States, we have to make an effort to understand, to go beyond these rather difficult times.
"My favorite poet was Aeschylus. He once wrote: "In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God."
"What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness; but is love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.
"We can do well in this country. We will have difficult times; we've had difficult times in the past; we will have difficult times in the future. It is not the end of violence; it is not the end of lawlessness; it is not the end of disorder.
But the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings who abide in our land.
Compare that to Nancy Pelosi describing President Trump’s recent budget plans as a steaming plate of poop with a cherry on top…or some Congressman saying the president was “slut shaming” someone else.
Don’t even mention the president whose low-end rhetoric is held in disdain and has contributed to a world view of the United States as a bunch of red-neck rubes unable to tell what science, culture and intelligence are.
I will not bother to quote any of today’s current politicians. They are neither the best nor are they the brightest. Though they tweet, they are not worthy of a repeat or a retweet.
They are small minded men and women who promote divisiveness in a variety of ways in order to keep enough support from equally small-minded people in order to retain their elected office.
Everywhere you look, the world operates in smaller and smaller circles.
We’ve retreated from space exploration. No one has stepped foot on the moon in 45 years.
We’ve retreated from our leadership role in international policies, and remain the only nation not to sign the Paris accords.
We have threatened the existence of the U.N., we’ve killed our role as a model for inclusiveness, equality and opportunity.
Ronald Reagan, a man the GOP deified, cried “Tear Down that Wall!”
We know have a president who wants to build one.
We believe more in conspiracy theories now than facts.
We are but a pale shadow of our former selves.
Some say Bin Laden won when the Twin Towers fell.
We believe more in conspiracy theories now than facts. We chase chem trails, the flat earth, and believe in “alternative facts.”
And no one wants to accept responsibility for anything.
The government shuts down and members of the Republican and Democratic party – along with all their followers, treat the shutdown as if they are rooting for their favorite football team in the Super Bowl.
One side is demonized against the other. No one admits culpability and everyone – even if they agree their side has some responsibility for the mess – believes the other side is the greater sinner.
Some even defend the contentious nature of government as being the purposeful intent of the framers of the constitution – and while nothing could be further from the truth, it matters little.
Finding common ground is so uncommon as to be damn near impossible.
Politics is sport. Sport is spectacle and the spectacle of what we represent in this country is far more important than the reality.
There is a great line in the movie Interstellar when Matthew McConaughey ‘s character laments that we used to look up at the heavens and wonder where our place was among the stars, but now all we do is look at the ground and fight over our place in the dirt.
The government shutdown illustrates everything wrong with our government – an inability to compromise, over- zealous self-righteous anger, hypocrisy, ignorance and intolerance.
From a president who has never stood for anything, to a Congress which will fall for anything to an electorate which understands nothing and blissfully crows about its ignorance masquerading as enlightenment on any and every social media venue, this country is so far from its founding ideals that it is – at this moment – unrecognizable as the country I’ve read about in history books and in which I lived as a child.
We have only ourselves to blame of course. Pogo’s “We have met the enemy and he is us” rings far truer today than when Walt Kelly penned that line.
But very few of us are willing to shake off the blame game and search for answers
But very few of us are willing to shake off the blame game and search for answers.
Fewer of us still even know how to find answers. It’s not so much that we lack education but we even lack the critical thinking that leads to education.
We swallow talking points, slogans and alternative facts eagerly – as long as they play to our own philosophical beliefs. We all do it to some extent.
But today’s world requires more – much more.
It requires education, gentility, stubbornness and a willingness to compromise.
As Kennedy said, “Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world. Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people.”