When we take pride in America while rationalizing what goes on in our nation’s capitol as partisan politics and sloppy big government, are we wrong? If a decision on whether our country deserves to exist was based on the shameful display in Washington over the past two weeks, America would be gone. How can we be proud of our country when our government, one of the most American things about us, has become a liability and an embarrassment?
When we were kids we were taught that our way of governing distinguishes us from other countries. American democracy is something we have used repeatedly to hold ourselves above the pack and to take action on behalf of the world’s less fortunate. Even President Obama seemed to have some dim sense that we are special and different when he pushed for military intervention in Syria. Of course, he went about it the wrong way and ended up making us look subservient and weak. Too often wisdom in leadership means knowing what not to touch. Once you are committed you can’t back down.
How does our government anger and shame us? It causes us to doubt something we should take pride in.
1. Washington turns good Americans bad.
With the federal budget and debt ceiling dumped on another blue ribbon committee you are going to start hearing about immigration reform as a fix for the debt. The push for amnesty portrays us as xenophobic and naïve about the benefits immigrants bring and neglects to acknowledge the staggering list of benefits and services we provide to illegals. Are we discriminatory gatekeepers of a system that is unfair and damaging, or are we being blamed because partisanship wants to swap one system Washington can’t use for another?
You are also going to hear more tiresome arguments for Obama’s balanced approach to taxes. On the opposite end of the spectrum from illegal immigrants we have wealth and accomplishment, but Americans are told that our successful friends and neighbors guard their wealth to harm others. We aren’t the only ones who hear this kind of government hate talk. The rest of the world hears it, too.
2. Obama’s Washington makes us a weak, second-rate power.
Part of our pride in America comes, unashamedly, from reigning over the free world. That has changed. While Syria’s chemical weapons were handled per Putin’s dictates, China weighed in on our debt tab and credit rating agencies drooled at the prospect of another downgrade while Capitol Hill buffoons made America look like a nation of idiots. Bad decisions mixed with no decisions are not a formula for world leadership. Is the picture of what has happened to our position in the world not clear enough and is there any question on where the blame and anger need to be directed?
3. Your government relishes dependent Americans.
Does government consent to our existence? It was supposed to be the other way around (see: Congress’s Abuse of the Common Good Shames Our Founding Fathers). The more government we have the more we serve its ends. Can we take pride in America when Americans are satisfied with subsisting on what Washington is willing to dole out, from Social Security pensions to food stamps to health care, or should we be angry at the government for pushing dependence during an economic downturn?
4. Our government will destroy the nation before questioning its own motives.
I didn’t miss much during the shutdown. A few of the federal websites I visit for Civil Candor were offline, surprising given that it should cost almost nothing to let computer servers run even when they are owned by the government. They are a lot cheaper than federal employees. They don’t collect salaries, pensions, and benefits. Other than that, it seemed like most things were attended to other than services cut off to punish the public. With a little tweaking we could do this again next month and save taxpayers some money.
We might have learned valuable things had the shutdown dragged on for weeks. Like the stack of papers that sits forgotten at the bottom of the inbox on your desk, after a time we would have realized what we don’t need. We already know what we don’t want: a great big government that exists to support itself and uses Americans to make it happen. That reality is not something that helps us take pride in America, but it should arouse plenty of anger at America’s government.