I’m a big believer in the power of words, so as the shutdown drags on ever longer and more and more people begin to talk about it, I find myself wondering what words to use to describe it. People call the congress “childish”, or “terrorist”, or “stupid.” I try on each of those words and try to figure out what words are really appropriate, what are silly rhetoric, and what words do more harm than good. Let us deconstruct together.
First off, I don’t think that “childish” is a good word to use. While much of the dialogue seems woefully immature, I still don’t believe it’s a good idea to insult children. Most children are aware that their actions have consequences. This becomes clear even at a very young age. My two-year-old Monkeypants knows when she’s gone too far. She knows when it’s time to accept the time out and the fact that the toys have gone into the “no-no box” on top of the fridge. She will give me a hug and same “sorry Mimi” with those big, tearfully rueful eyes, and she will behave as if she is remorseful. Congress does not show that level of self-awareness. Instead, as the consequences become more dire and the public outcry and condemnation mounts, they yell even louder as if throwing a bigger tantrum is the real way to get what you want. Sorry, Congress, but my two-year-old even knows that won’t work. So what you are isn’t childish, that’s not it at all.
Another word used in lieu of “childish” is “criminal.” For one, nothing that congress has done is illegal. They have the shield of the law over them, even if it seems contrary to the conscience that such could be true. An analogy has been made that their actions are similar to kidnapping the American public’s needs and holding them blackmail, much like drug cartels do with rich tourists. And while on a basic level that comparison seems to hold water, I think it needs to be examined in more than a cursory way. What exactly happened? The extreme side of one party looked at the failed budget negotiations. They claim that their conscience would not allow them to pass a budget that funded items they disagree with on a basic moral level. Hm. While that may smack of a certain amount of truth, almost all politicians do so to some extent or another. They yammer about funding for more tanks, for example, or for wheat subsidies, or for scientific grants, or for funding failing schools. They moan and complain, but ultimately pass the budget because they come to the very sane realization that the majority of Americans are asking them to do so, and they serve our interests, not their conscience. In this instance, while 51% of the public say they are unhappy with the Affordable Care Act, 27% of that thin “majority” want it improved, and only 23% of them want it defunded. So the numbers reflect that over 80% of Americans didn’t want Congress to fail to pass the budget over that issue. In that case, it means that if the House was feeling pricked by anything, it probably wasn’t their conscience. It was opportunism. That makes the “holding us hostage” language feel a little more real. They saw an opportunity to take a visible stand, but it wasn’t in the name of the majority of Americans. That’s what they said, but clearly the numbers show that was dishonest at best but most likely a lie. The stand was in the name of political posturing. So this isn’t like a drug cartel taking a hostage so much as political activists taking prisoners. Only what is held prisoner is pregnant women’s access to WIC, vacationers access to parks, military personnel’s access to civilian contractors, scientist’s access to grant money, and the list goes on and on.
I can see why some people would say, “they are like terrorists.” But that language is unnecessarily inflammatory and most people on the other side of the argument wouldn’t stay around long enough to hear the explanation, and likely wouldn’t buy into it even if they did. Is literally halting people’s lives worth what slim political gain the Republicans garner? I doubt it, in the long run. That’s why I finally found the word I think fits them the most:
Opportunistic bastards. Yes, I know, it’s still inflammatory. But, I can’t think of anything that fits that is not. I’m thinking of that guy at the bar who won’t take no for an answer. You tell him you’re not there to be picked up and he says, “you’re just saying that because you haven’t met me yet.” You tell him you are there with friends and aren’t interested in conversation. He says, “sweetie you don’t have to play shy.” Your friends come over to rescue you from your obvious discomfort and he tells them not to cock-block. You laugh and say no really you aren’t interested in his cock and he says that’s because you haven’t seen it and asks for your cell phone number. Hello, dude, no means no. But he’s the kind of creep that will still try to walk you to your car. The kind of creep that keeps sending you unwanted drinks. The kind of creep that makes you feel like you need to ask the bouncer to walk you to your car. The kind of creep who probably has roofies in his pocket and is just waiting for a congressional budget negotiation to totally screw you. The kind of guy that gets more aggressive the more you say “no.”
A bastard, plain and simple.
Not a child, because children know that no means no. Not a criminal, because the criminal justice system is full of people who pled guilty and accepted the consequences of their actions. Not a terrorist, because terrorists show a callous disregard for the value of life. And these guys, they never seem to cross that line. No, they just terrify you because you wonder what will happen one day when the right opportunity strikes. (Okay, maybe that sounds suspiciously like terrorism.)
They are just bastards, but unlike the bastards in the bar you can’t throw the drink they bought you at their crotch and just get up and leave and go somewhere else.