Why? Well, the main reasons given were due to the fact that a group of representatives in the US House didn’t want to support any bill that provided funding for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, most commonly known as Obamacare. The reasons are well documented: Tea Party politicians think the government spends too much money, Obamacare is a socialist program that will cost billions, and President Barak Obama is leading the country to ruin.
We think the real reason is there are many elected politicians who serve in our nation’s capitol who refuse to acknowledge they work for all the people, not just those who hold the same beliefs as they do.
Those who are so rigid in their own beliefs, whose strength of conviction goes beyond admirable to confrontational, that they refuse to see more than one side of an issue and are unwilling to compromise. Democracy, by its nature, requires compromise. Without it, we have either demagoguery or authoritarianism, or both. Neither of those are truly what most Americans want of their leaders, nor what they deserve.
The recently-concluded shutdown cost the country much, both in terms of economic loss and in embarrassment on the world stage. Millions of citizens were impacted by the shutdown. Federal employees were not paid, and now must wait for back wages. Businesses that rely on the government, such as restaurants and services near the capitol, or inns and lodges near national parks, have suffered from lost revenues. Countries around the world where we are encouraging democracy surely have looked at the actions of Congress during the past few weeks and wondered why the United States can’t come to a simple agreement to fund the government.
What we think is truly missing in Washington is the ability for civil public discourse. There will always be politicians on opposite sides of issues, regardless of what those issues are. What often appears to be missing is the understanding that legislators need to act together to keep the basic functions of government operating.
But then, the ability to engage in civil discourse is often lost on the greater public, as well. One only needs to spend about 15 minutes on social media websites to see that. Rather than engage in honest, heartfelt debate, many prefer snarky snipes or caustic attacks.
There are many people out there, in and out of Congress, who could use a refresher course in civil discourse, or perhaps an introductory one.
“We need to, in this country, begin again to raise civil discourse to another level. I mean, we shout and scream and yell and get very little accomplished, but you can disagree very much with the next guy and still be friends and acquaintances.” -Leah Ward Sears, former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia