And what if there is no State of the Union address delivered live from Congress on its appointed date?
I know it won’t break my heart if the words have to be delivered in writing instead – like it used to be. It won’t break my heart if no one bothers with it at all.
It won’t break my heart if the President has to take Davos off his agenda, if the Speaker of the House must cancel her CODEL. Really, just not feeling it over this prime time game of chicken.
What does break my heart is broken trust, shattered dreams, suffering.
What breaks my heart is children separated from their parents.
What breaks my heart is people working without pay.
What breaks my heart is people dutifully paying their taxes and finding their rights, their privacy, their possibilities, their economic security, their personal liberty slowly but surely being stripped away.
What breaks my heart is endless war.
What breaks my heart is our beautiful earth pillaged and destroyed.
What breaks my heart is people who can’t afford the medicine they need to live, who can’t afford or access healthcare.
What breaks my heart is people divided and used.
What breaks my heart is young people saddled with debt.
What breaks my heart is the homeless, the addicted, the impoverished, the forgotten.
We are, in fact, already pretty acutely aware of the state of things.
We have little use for more prime time propaganda. We have heard enough lies and seen enough subterfuge to last us awhile. We have little use to see the halls of Congress televised where yet more time will be spent accomplishing nothing on behalf of the people.
Who is not angry and ashamed at this point? This nonsense government shutdown demonstrates such contempt for the people – and who can be surprised? If there is a crisis, it is manifest in this abusive stunt carried out, once again, on the backs of the people.
Which one of us could stamp their foot like that on the job and not simply expect to get fired? What responsible parent would allow their child to carry on with such assininity before swiftly reining it in?
But no, our government officials, and our top dog in particular, are allowing this debased spectacle to wallow on whilst unthreading the lives and processes of the people who fund it, pay for it, and work for it.
This is not governing. This is not leadership. This goes beyond incompetence. It demonstrates an utter lack of respect for the citizenry, and a sneering disdain for democratic principles and ethics. There is nothing democratic about what’s going on right now, and while the threat of a declaration of a national emergency continues to thrum, it sadly smells more like attempted coup.
And yet, we continue to tolerate it, disgusted though we may be.
This idiotic farce of governance plays out simultaneous to any number of other deeply disturbing situations, too, not the least of which include drumbeats for war with Iran.
No. Just no.
Every single reprehensible scenario playing out in Washington D.C. these days goes well beyond media fodder that keeps everyone transfixed, emasculated, and wonderfully divided. These are not mere antics.
These are the lives of people we’re talking about.
We are not simply chess pieces. We are not tweets. We are not mere dollar signs. We live and breathe. We matter. Believe it or not.
We deserve and demand representation that works for us, not against us.
Yesterday, I found myself in the midst of a group of people anxious to see Bernie Sanders #RunBernieRun for 2020. They had gathered at a local bar to watch a livestream hosted by a grassroots entity, Organizing For Bernie. They happily stayed to converse afterward.
What struck me about this gathering of mostly strangers was the gentle positivity, openness to ideas, and compassionate acceptance of others – traits I don’t often witness anymore in even remotely political discourse.
These folks easily hung around together for an engaging discussion that roamed far and wide, touching on topics ranging from Flint’s water to the concept of “rights and privileges.” The thoughtful and wonderfully intelligent conversation was a breath of fresh air. The talk focused on issues, very little on candidates or parties.
The discourse waded into the rights and privileges territory as participants explored healthcare issues. One person firmly took the stance that healthcare is a right not a privilege; another easily responded that they were not convinced that is the case. It was great to see all of the people in the group comfortably exploring this. There was no anger, no shame, no bullying, no dares, no put-downs, no unthinking repetition of shallow memes, just an honest and curious discussion turning the ideas over.
Much later, I found that discussion burbling in my brain – not exactly whether healthcare is a right or a privilege, but how we view and come to define rights and privileges.
The more I turned the topic over in my head, the more I realized it is just a matter of the lens through which we look at things. If we look at healthcare or water, for example, through the lens of capitalism, it’s about the price of things. It’s about who’s paying and how much. It’s about who owns it and how much benefit they receive from that ownership. It’s about one’s ability to pay, or whether they have to pay for someone else.
It’s really not a question of right or privilege – it’s just dollars and cents, the bottom line. Healthcare is simply a commodity. Life-saving drugs are commodities. Water is a commodity. Education, imprisonment, the ballot are commodities. Even war – life and death – is a commodity. It’s just about who’s going to pay and for whom.
It is very natural to look at it through this lens; indeed, it is difficult to see it any other way.
But there is another way. We can look through the lens of compassion. Our ingrained capitalist way of life has no room for compassion, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t or can’t be there. The question of right or privilege just serves to keep us off topic.
The very concept of “rights” implies a moral underpinning. We needn’t, we shouldn’t, shy away from our innate morality in order to accommodate a system and those reaping its profits. Denying our own very real ethics in subordination to that system is inherently unfree and inhumane – and we do it all the time without blinking. It drives us to ask such unthinkable questions as whether access to healthcare or potable water is a right or a privilege.
Most people I meet have a great deal of compassion, even if it masked by a stubborn allegiance to soulless concepts, leadership, and acts. It is human, it is life, to hold compassion.
Let’s find our way back to being the whole people that we are, not just citizens, taxpayers, workers. Let us radically allow compassion to help us determine our direction. Let us factor compassion into the most practical decisions of our society.
Let us worry less about defining rights and privileges under the gaze of the capitalist god, and look more to what’s simply best for all. Everyone’s boat will float higher when we do that.
Go ahead, America, vote up a storm today. Let’s see how the dust settles.
Will most voters support politics of fear and authoritarianism? Will they rubber stamp politics of exclusion, lies, militarization?
Or will they vote to move toward politics of human respect and freedom? Will they show a congregate push towards love, justice, peace?
What is the real fabric of which we are made today?
Today’s voting is not a fix to our national problems and we may not have perfect choices, but it is nevertheless an important step in righting the ship.
All hands on deck.
And for those who, with consideration, don’t, I understand and respect the choice not to vote. Remember that choice, too, is a political act that will play into today’s outcome.