Friday, October 4, 2013

Government Shutdown

I am not a very political person, and I promise I won't make a habit out of posting on political topics. That being said, the current semi-shutdown-trainwreck-bitchfight that is the US Government has brought out the political side in everybody recently, so I've found myself drawn into more debates than I'd typically participate in, with people from every corner of my social circles. (Yes, I realize I just talked about the corners of a circle.) These discussions tend to go the exact same way, regardless of the other participant.

Step 1: They make some loud, blanket assertion like "This is all the Democrats'/Republicans'/President's/Christians'/corporations' fault!"

Step 2: I say "Pointing fingers and laying blame isn't going to solve a problem that arose from pointing fingers and laying blame. We should take this opportunity to talk about the structural issues underlying our failing government rather than sitting around calling the opposition idiots."

Step 3: They say "My side is the only logical one, we can't take the middle ground. Those guys are idiots."

Step 4: Repeat Step 2

Step 5: Repeat Step 3

And so on and so forth.

I know it sounds like I'm creating a straw-man here, but I'm really not. This is essentially the level of political discourse that our nation of pseudo-intellectual "informed" citizens seems to be capable of producing at this point.

Now, in terms of my own stance, I'm not really taking a side. Sure, I have my opinions, but I largely stay away from party politics and there are very few issues about which my view is particularly strong or polar. What I do believe, though, is that the political system in this country is severely defective, in a deep and systemic way that goes far beyond issues of being "too liberal" or "too conservative". My thoughts on the matter are perhaps best summed up by a portion of one of my recent online arguments, which I will include here as my closing statement on the matter:

This shutdown has created a prime opportunity for people to see how broken the current political system is and to engage in meaningful discourse about how to solve the structural problems that have allowed a situation like this to happen in the first place. Instead, all I see are a bunch of self-righteous soap-boxers on both sides pointing and shouting and saying that the other party is to blame. It's sad to watch a bunch of presumably intelligent people insist on furthering the problem rather than taking a step back, getting off their high-horses, and looking at the bigger issues at hand.

And I'm not talking about taking the middle ground. You're hung up on which side of the boat to sit in. I'm saying that the whole damn boat is sinking, so maybe before we worry about seating arrangements we should fix the boat.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with your point, and it's a good one to consider.

    Yes, I think it's quite obvious which side is at fault in this situation. But fixing the game, rather than the player, is ultimately what we need.

    I was just discussing the changing political climate with my dad this weekend. He pointed out that gerrymandering used to be a method to make a political party more competitive on a statewide/national level, but now it's instead used to make a few seats impervious to challenge. Thus, with certain jobs locked up permanently as long as they please a core constituency, they are free to engage in all kinds of obstructionism and soapboxing. Please the most excitable members of your base, and you've got a permanent job with all kinds of perks.

    So, there's one feature that needs to change. The problem that's more obvious is that neither political party represents the interests of the middle class, whom all historians would agree make democracy possible. And some are quick to point out that extreme economic inequality is often a hallmark of instability and long-term unsustainability.