Aaron Anderson believes it’s clear the government is acting childish. But are they the only ones?
Did the Government just shut down? Really? I get it that our Government has different branches in order to have checks and balances so that no one person, party or branch of government can exercise too much control. And I get that in order to have a functional government we have to have multiple parties representing the various opinions of constituents in the U.S. But I thought the purpose of different branches of government and having different parties was meant to help the U.S., not gridlock it.
I believe our founding fathers were brilliant and inspired men and that the system of government they established is functional and has made the U.S. the great nation it is in just the relatively short of amount of time we’ve been a nation. But there’s one thing those brilliant founders must not have considered: that the nation would be run by people. And people don’t always get along. They have quarrels, throw tantrums and just downright refuse to try to get along – much like a family.
Congress is Acting Like a Dysfunctional Family
In a lot of ways, our Congress is acting a lot like a dysfunctional family. As a family counselor, I can’t help but notice some of the similarities between what I see with families in my office and what I’m seeing in Washington.
Let me see if I hear this right. First, there are the Republicans shouting that they’re not being heard and their constituents don’t want the Affordable Healthcare Act so they’re going to try to do anything to stop it.
Then, the Democrats are saying that it’s already been voted on, passed, signed, and upheld by the Supreme Court so tough luck because it’s staying whether Republicans (and others in the U.S.) like it or not.
Then on top of it all, you have President Obama who is stating that Republicans simply don’t like him and that’s why they’re having such a moan about the healthcare law (despite polls that say most Americans are worried or confused about the healthcare law).
Does anybody else see the similarities here?
In my office it looks like this: Randy (Republicans) says to his father: “Dad, I don’t want such a limiting curfew”. (i.e. I don’t want the healthcare law).
Dad (President Obama): “Sorry son, everyone has to have a curfew to help them stay safe.
Don (Democrats): Yeah, Brother, get over it. Curfews are good for people”.
Randy: If you won’t extend my curfew then I won’t do my chores and I won’t go along with anything the rest of the family wants to do!
Don: Stop being such a child and just go with it!
Randy: (to Don) No, you’re being the child!
Don: No, you are!
They both end the conversation by sticking their tongue out at each other and stomping off to their rooms.
Dad (to Don) “I don’t know why he’s so upset about having such an early curfew. I think Randy just doesn’t like me”.
Don (To Dad): You’re right Dad, Randy is just being childish.
What striking similarities. The only difference is, usually a family can come up with some kind of compromise that everyone can agree with. So instead of Randy having no curfew, it just gets extended by an hour and has to answer his cell phone whenever Dad calls. This isn’t all that difficult. Any novice counselor knows this stuff.
Congress has been having the same back and forth dysfunctional antics since they were challenged to come up with something a couple years ago during the 2012 debt ceiling showdown. That was almost two years ago!
Why Aren’t American Voting for New, More Functional Representatives?
There is one stark advantage that Americans have over a family. We’ve all heard it said that you can pick your friends but you can’t pick your family. Well, fortunately unlike our family, whom we can’t pick, we can pick our Representatives. If they’re not doing the job we want them to do we can simply vote them out. We can find new ones with platforms for compromise and ending the gridlock in Washington.
But even though we have had ample opportunities to vote for new representatives in the last couple of elections we seem to be voting the same gridlockers back. Which leads me to wonder if this is really just a problem in Congress or if this is this a problem more broadly throughout the U.S.
My grandparents tell me of a time when you could talk about politics openly with each other without having to worry about offending someone or without having to defend why you believe the way you do. But things seems to have changed in my generation.
Ever since I can remember, it seems the climate in the U.S. is that you don’t talk about politics without gearing up for an argument. I’ve heard throughout my life that you don’t talk about religion or politics. Except my grandparents tell me that the saying used to only be about religion.
As I look around the political landscape in Washington, I can’t help but see the defensiveness, anger, gridlock and childish behavior of our Representatives. But I also can’t help but notice what conversations look like around the water cooler at work, on chatrooms, and in the comments sections of political websites. It doesn’t seem like there’s a civil conversation in any of those environments. Someone’s yelling that Obama is not really an American. And someone else is yelling that the Republicans are out of touch with the rest of America.
So as I look around, I can’t help but wonder about the current political climate in Washington and wonder if they’re the ones being childish or if they really are just representing we Americans and the broader divisive landscape. I also can’t help but wonder if it’s just Congress who are really being the dysfunctional family here.
Photo: neate_photos / flickr