Well, folks, it’s finally here — the government showdown we’ve had for six years has become the government shutdown. Animosity and enmity, name calling, litmus tests, and vile silliness has brought us to … this.
Years ago, Frederick Buechner said, in his book Wishful Thinking
“Of the Seven Deadly Sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back–in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.”
As in all abusive families, the dysfunction in our American family inevitably leads to there being no family at all — either through, death, dissolution, or distrust and distance, Functional families meet the needs of their members and have a trajectory to stay together. Dysfunctional ones deny the needs of their members, shame and ridicule each other for not being “perfect enough”, while some suffer lack of self-esteem from being ostracized, shunned, violated, or bullied for no apparent reason. Oddly, often the bullies are the ones with poor-self esteem, taking it out on others, and bringing everyone down to their level, rather than rising to a healthier one. Dysfunctional families fall apart, because they don’t work for anybody — or at least enough members to keep them going.
Communism, and Fascism fell, then, not because we fought against them, but because they weren’t designed to stand. This is not to say that we didn’t or shouldn’t fight against them, but Gandhi and King knew that ultimately, evil systems can’t stand — and therefore, wouldn’t. Purity and One Answer To Everything always fails, because no one-dimensional answer ever works for every problem and systems face challenges or problems every day. Today, Pure American Capitalism and the Tea Party’s insistence on “No taxes, ever…”, has brought us to this place and our American government family is done — at least in this incarnation. We must change or we will stay stuck in this not-functioning-at-all place and we will all suffer. One dimensional idols never succeed. Living, breathing, changeable, rational and loving systems succeed. We have been insane, irrational and hatefully following The Way of Capitalism and a few other isms along the way.
For as long as I can remember — highlighted most strongly during this President’s tenure — we have bet our houses on The Free Market, and the Great White Male Way, even as it became clearer and clearer that those things worked for fewer and fewer people.
Let me give you some examples:
The answer to the Market’s collapse? People want more deregulation and they get mad when someone wants to look and figure out what happened. Does anyone remember Elizabeth Warren attacked by Congress for wanting the banks to be more accountable?
The answer to people needing jobs? Not from this government. They should just get one of those non-existent jobs. Where from? Not the government. And don’t even ask us to consider it.
The answer to people needing health care? Not the government. Let the free market handle it. Yes, but that hasn’t been working. It’s supposed to be working, therefore it is. America is the greatest country in the world, and don’t you forget it!
The answer to more and more people becoming poor? Have fewer and fewer get bizarrely rich. And don’t ask the government to fix it or you are not a patriot!
People need food? Take away their food stamps. Too much government is the problem. People need heat? Take away their fuel assistance. Too much government is the problem. Towns need fire departments or police or roads? Pull the funding from those. Too much government is the problem. Too many random shootings? De-regulate guns even further.Too much government is the problem. We have to stop this.
Years ago, my friend Marilyn Rossier had a bumper sticker that asked “Do we hate our enemies more than we love our children?”. The new version of that might well be, “Do we hate our government more than we love each other?” When we decide to stop hating government, we’ll stop electing people who hate government. When we stop hating the non-white “new guy” we elected president, because the Great White Way needs protection, we can get around to loving each other. When we stop hating women, because The Old Ways worked so well and only Communists think differently, we might actually get working ideas from the women we elected. When we stop hating the needy, we might get around to meeting most of our own needs.
The good news is that we have the tools to fix our problems. The bad news is that we haven’t wanted to. Until we do want American government to work in a new way that fits the reality of our situation, that won’t change. When all of this is over, elect people who believe that government is a good thing — a system designed to help people, that listens to them, and helps them meet their need for each other. A government that hates itself cannot stand, and today, it doesn’t.