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Government Shutdown making United States lose credibility


Normal In the Intervals : The Government Shutdown

The Roman Emperor Caligula was known for his eccentric and cruel behavior. While campaigning in Gaul, he had his legions, then the most feared army in the world, formed into battle array near the English Channel. After an appropriately stirring speech, he boarded a ship, pointed at the coast of England, and put to sea.


He only went for a short distance because he couldn’t swim, and was terrified of the sea.  


His warship turned around and brought him back to shore. Caligula climbed to the ship’s highest point, and shouted an order to his troops:


“Gather sea-shells!”


Although initially a bit confused, the mighty Roman Legion complied, filling their helmets with shells. The shells were sent to Rome as plunder. One can only wonder about how this “booty” was received in the capital.


Crazy, isn’t it?


Crazier than the latest installment of the Republican’s shutting down the government?


And what, exactly, was the shutdown about?


For the dismemberment of Obama Care by starving it of money?Photo: blogging4jobs.com


For the good of the “people”?


For an ill-advised run at causing the government to default on its financial obligations?


For the delay in implementing an obscure tax on medical equipment?


For the exercise of political muscle that needed a workout?


To reduce government “intrusion” into our lives? (As if baying politicians on TV were not intrusion enough?)


On principle?


If so, what principal?


The reasons for the shutdown shifted day by day and politician by politician.


There are plenty of political quotes that could be placed in this article right here. Most idiotic in nature, some pertinent, none wise. All filled with ego and hubris.


Pick a side, either side, and you’ll find lots of words to fill any agenda you wish you push. Left, right, pragmatist, ideologue, crazy as hell. But, so what? What is the point?


Several Big Truths are emerging from all this.


One is that, like the sun rising in the east and setting in the west, we’ll be back here in January and February running through this deplorable charade all over again because this ending of the shutdown only lasts until then.


This is what passes as legislation these days. A ninety-day reprieve doesn’t seem adequate.


Another Big Truth is that the United States, through its interminable political squabbles, is losing credibility and influence around the world.


The dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency, along with the myriad benefits that brings us, is being eroded.


A decline has begun.


The last time the reserve currency changed, from British Pound to the Dollar, it took fifty years to complete. That process has started. A cursory study of British economic history charts the disruptive course of decline; one that includes a poverty Americans are not accustomed to.


The last Big Truth is this: no one knows where the center of political life is in the United States.


Without the predictive power of some certainty, the chances of a Big Mistake go up.


Brinksmanship is fine until someone slips on an unseen banana peel and we all fall down.


Next time, a right-wing Texas senator may decide to stage a real filibuster, and delay a vote on the debt ceiling: His action will gobble up time; time will run out, and the scales will be tipped to disaster.


But then it will to late for a reasonable remedy, won’t it?


By then it will be too late for reasonable people to speak up and be heard.


Late in the 19th century, Vincent Van Gogh wrote a letter while voluntarily a patient in the lunatic asylum at St.-Remy in Provence.


In that letter Van Gogh wrote, “I am not strictly speaking mad, for my mind is absolutely normal in the intervals... But during the attacks it is terrible-and then I lose consciousness of everything. But that spurs me on to work and to seriousness, as a minor who is always making haste in what he does.”


Fifeteen months later, after his discharge from that asylum, Van Gogh shot himself to death. He was thirty-seven years old.


Imagine what we lost by the premature death of a great artist. Imagine the art he could have created if he had lived a normal lifespan.


Imagine what we’ll lose by the demise of the United States at the hands of mediocre politicians.


Imagine that the next shutdown spawns a momentous mistake, well meaning of coarse-and in the name of the people: a mistake that alters our national life in ways unforeseen by the politicians who are “not strictly speaking mad;” who are “absolutely normal in the intervals.”


Contact Michael Settle at michaelsettle@gmail.com

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Photo: blogging4jobs.com