So, I stayed up way past my bedtime on Monday night, because I just couldn’t believe that the government shutdown was actually going to happen. And since it’s happened, I can’t believe some of the things I’m seeing on Facebook — although, really, I should be used to it by now. But, then again, maybe it’s okay, and kind of the point, to never get “used to” gross misunderstanding.
I’ve decided to take Anne Lamott’s advice and employ her first plan of action in response to the shutdown: “Writers need to keep writing. We cannot let you off the hook just because of our collective Confusion. We need you now more than ever: Barry Lopez said that when all is said and done, all we have to help us are stories, and compassion. So get back to work! Short assignments, shitty first drafts; just do it.”
In that spirit, here is a paraphrased list of Facebook status updates that have peppered my Newsfeed, and my response:
1) “So just Republicans are to blame for this? Come on! Really?”
Yep. Wanna see the letter? Here it is. 80 Republicans signed it. 0 Democrats signed it. In case you can’t read the fine print, the letter-signers propose using “the power of the purse” (i.e. they will refuse to do their jobs and pay bills) unless the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) is defunded.
2) “Ugh. If the Democrats would just compromise, this would be over.”
Ugh. No. As Thomas Friedman explains here: “What is at stake in this government shutdown forced by a radical Tea Party minority is nothing less than the principle upon which our democracy is based: majority rule. President Obama must not give in to this hostage taking — not just because Obamacare is at stake, but because the future of how we govern ourselves is at stake.”
Despite all the Facebook references to the healthcare “bill,” Obamacare isn’t a bill. It’s a law. As Andrew Sullivan explains here: “Obama has played punctiliously by the constitutional rules – two elections, one court case – while the GOP has decided that the rules are for dummies and suckers, and throws over the board game as soon as it looks as if it is going to lose by the rules as they have always applied.”
- in the 2008 election in which this was a primary issue;
- in a year-long debate in the halls of congress, media, and the public square, after which the law was passed by both chambers of congress and signed by the president;
- in the Supreme Court–the final arbiter of the constitutionality of a law;
- in the 2012 presidential election, which 2/3rds of Americans now see as a referendum on Obamacare;
- in the 2012 congressional election, in which the GOP failed to take the Senate, lost seats in the House, and lost the popular vote in that chamber by more than 1,000,000 votes;
- in the 46 House votes to repeal, defund, or delay Obamacare that were dead on arrival in the Senate and had no chance of becoming law.
We have a way to affect laws that does not involve extortion. It’s called an election.
See Thomas Friedman’s article again: “If democracy means anything, it means that, if you are outvoted, you accept the results and prepare for the next election. Republicans are refusing to do that. It shows contempt for the democratic process.”
Here’s the deal Republicans: I’m a Democrat, and as much as I’d like to believe that this extortionist strategy wouldn’t set a dangerous precedent if successful — b/c Democrats would be too noble-minded to use it — I know that’s not the case. And Friedman agreed in this NPR interview: “What’s to prevent Democrats from winning the house the next time around and under a Republican president and a Republican senate saying: ‘you know that B1 bomber you approved? . . . we’re not happy with it and we’re not going to pass the debt ceiling unless that is removed.’ You will have a government where nothing is ever settled. And that’s a recipe for disaster.”
In other words, if the Democrats “compromise” (i.e. cave), this would most definitely *not* be over — quite the contrary.
3) “[Insert ugly name for Obama here] is going to starve kids and babies.”
Okay. This didn’t pop up on *my* Newsfeed, but that of a mutual friend. She sent me a screen shot.
Unlike the “chuckleheads at Fox News” who actually joked about whether or not people would have to resort to “potted meat and Tang” during the government shutdown, this Facebook poster does at least realize that:
“During the shutdown, the Department of Agriculture will stop supporting the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, which helps pregnant women and new moms buy healthy food and provides nutritional information and health care referrals to those who need it. The program aids some 9 million Americans” (see “The Nine Most Painful Consequences of a Government Shutdown”).
However, it’s kind of like Thomas Frank’s book, What’s the Matter with Kansas? (i.e. in the book, Frank explores why working class Kansans repeatedly vote against their own interests by voting conservatively). This poster recognizes the painful impact of the government shutdown while not only refusing to support but also insulting the party fighting poverty with both food subsidies and affordable healthcare.
People are entitled to their own opinion, but not to their own facts.
Anne Lamott says that we also need compassion, so in an attempt to be compassionate toward Facebook posters 1, 2 and 3, I’ll recognize the fact that they watch Fox News and are probably legitimately confused, since Sean Hannity has been referring to the “liberal shutdown.”
But, in the end, you might argue that it is, ultimately, a personal responsibility to seek out facts. When the Fox News pundits refer to the “liberal” shutdown one minute and claim responsibility for it the next, you should probably question your fact source.
Lamott compares House Republicans to the alcoholic uncle who “finally goes and does” the “something rash” he always threatens. In response, she pledges “to try to love the poor, degraded sick uncle” anyway but says: “I will forgive myself if this doesn’t go as well as hoped.”
Ditto for those family members who assert that the poor, degraded sick uncle isn’t the family drunk, despite the fact that he’s drooling on the floor under their feet. I’ll try to love them too . . . but will forgive myself if that doesn’t go very well either.