Sitting here on my couch just outside of Frankfurt, Germany, I’m feeling a bit of relief. Now that the United States government is back on line, my parents will get their Social Security checks, my friends working for Department of Defense schools will get their paychecks, and I can stop watching CNN World for updates. Maybe today I can sit at the lunch table and discuss puppy dogs and silly YouTube cat videos, instead of the government shut down.
But I have to say my anger at the congress of the United States is still lingering. The United States has had many triumphal moments in Congress. It has also had its ridiculous. Who could forget the duel between Alexander Hamilton and Vice President Aaron Burr. After years of political bickering Hamilton publishes an article about Burr’s character that pushes Burr to the breaking point. A duel was issued, although illegal, and Hamilton was mortally wounded.
And I’m sure you all remember this cartoon from your history books. Preston Brooks, a House representative from South Carolina comes to the Senate chamber with a cane and proceeds to beat Senator Charles Sumner. A few days before, Charles Sumner had given a speech stating that Brook’s uncle had taken a mistress…. Slavery. Brook’s first reaction was to challenge Sumner to a duel, but then he thought that duels only happen between gentlemen, and Sumner was no gentleman. So a good bashing upside Sumner’s head with a cane seemed the best solution.
I think some of us feel like this is a new thing for our congress…not getting along, not talking to one another. People like to blame the Tea Party for focusing in on one or two issues and then shutting down government. But our country has been to this place before… Slavery.
All went well for Congress as long as there were equal Slave and Free states coming into the Union. Things got sticky if a new state was entering that would upset the balance of Slave vs. Free. Each side would see their chance to make big changes. If we get a new Slave state…maybe we will have the upper hand and be able to create radical new laws that will sustain our lifestyle. If we get a new Free state…maybe we can end this practice of Slavery once and for all.
In spite of the ever-growing tensions between Slave and Free states, there were many years of compromise. How were these guys with such diametrically opposed view points able to come to the table each day and legislate for the country? They tabled the issue; they signed a gag rule. They agreed to stop arguing about Slavery. They agreed not to tag on caveats to bills that would lead to arguing and conflict. They just agreed to stop talking about it.
By not talking about it, nothing was solved. Well they were able to create budgets, discuss trade deficits, levy taxes, and claim new territories. But the problem of Slavery was still out there. And eventually it is what divided the country into two separate nations.
Is the issue of Slavery as volatile as the issue of Health Care? This is a no brainer, right? Who would suggest that these two issues are even on the same playing field. It is understandable that owning another person, using them like livestock, is wrong. Duh. But for over a hundred years, this issue crippled America. Half the country believed that they had a right to decide for themselves if it was ok to own slaves. The other half of the country could economically survive without it and believed that slavery was a moral evil.
Yet aren’t we back to that same place again? America is divided, this time not by border lines or regions, but ideology. And this time we are not divided over the moral evil of slavery, but the moral evil of affordable health care for all. Half of the country believes they have the right to decide for themselves whether or not they should have health care. The other half believes all people should have health care.
We are at a tipping point, dare I say, a civil crisis. Will we see portions of states secede because they cannot deal with the fact that people might receive health care subsidized by the American government? Are we about to see two nations, two loosely tided together countries that speckle the same geographic area of the US? The I-5 corridor is part of the United States of America but lands a bit further out will become the States United.
Most rational Americans, whether they be Republicans, Independents, or Democrats, don’t want America to dissolve. Most rational Americans do not want a Civil War. Let us hope it never comes to that.
Someday, American teenagers will read about this in textbooks and laugh. They will think…..Really?! People actually argued about Health Care? Bahahahaha!