December 22, 2018

What if my high school Government class Got it All Wrong? 

Government shutdown.

Some words have weight. They’re heavy. Scary. Charged with emotion.

The news that the United States government had shut down hit me like a punch in the stomach. I was reading the news when this line stopped me in my tracks, “Any hope of a compromise ended…”

Great. Well, actually it’s not so great and I just turn more sarcastic when I’m feeling frustrated. Call it a character flaw.

As I read the news another phrase came to my mind: “Not my circus. Not my monkeys.” 

One problem. I’m an American citizen so, sadly, this is my circus and it comes with the monkey.

As I was processing the information, my head began spinning with images of monkeys. Not just any monkeys either, but the flying monkeys à la “The Wizard of Oz” and all I can hear is the video that President Trump released to his Twitter account today. That angry, petulant voice of my country’s president ringing through my head. 

What if my high school government class got it all wrong? 

They taught us to respect the government and what it stood for.

I vividly remember my semester studying government. Topics like bipartisanship and the Electoral Process took on new meaning as I found integrity sandwiched between each line. It was folded into The Constitution of The United States deftly and with such care that you have no choice but to see that document with reverence. 

The preamble of The Constitution is a thing of beauty:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

I saw the Oval Office as something to aspire to, something to hold up and respect, something that a great person took responsibility for, and they did it with hesitation because the job is no small task. Being one of the most powerful people in the world will place you in the history books, for better or for worse.

I was taught to respect the person who sat in that office.

But how does one respect a man who seems to fit right into “The Wizard of Oz” movie playing in my head? Pardon me, Mr. President, but I feel that you also are on a search through a wonderful dream world all your own, looking desperately for a brain, for courage, and for a heart.

How do we respect a man that is under so many investigations on both a professional and a personal level that I’ve lost count of them? How do we accept a president who is not furthering a pursuit of domestic tranquility, but rather is proud of causing unrest and chaos with a shutdown?

The idea of my own President being chased down by the flying monkeys of the film is oddly cheering, which is exactly the problem. I’ve lost respect.

Now the question is: Can we still trust in the office? And can we trust the office, without trusting the man?

I’m not sure.

But what I am sure about is that I’m grateful to the men and women who will be working during the shutdown.

About 380,000 workers at nine of 15 cabinet-level departments would be sent home and would not be paid for the time off. Another 420,000 deemed too essential to be furloughed would be forced, like the Border Patrol officers, to work without pay.

I’m grateful for the men and women of government and public service who are continuing to work toward an end to the shutdown. There may be a sense of hopelessness, but I’m cheered slightly to know that they will not let that stop them. They are the changemakers and they speak for the rest of us.

The movie ends happily with the Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, and the Scarecrow finding the way to their heart, their courage, and their brains. I know life doesn’t often get the Hollywood finish, but a part of me is hoping that my government class didn’t get it all wrong.

It taught me that no one person is infallible. Those that founded the United States of America knew that. They knew that power cannot exist without checks and balances. Our current President may not have earned our trust or our respect in this instance, but we can believe in the basic goodness of people and in our shared desire to see the history books get it right.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” ~ Margaret Mead

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