The United States government’s last shutdown was in 1994. Last year, Congress dodged the fiscal cliff at the last hour and most experts expected an eleventh hour deal this time as well. However, as the clock ticked towards midnight, both parties entrenched themselves in their ideologies, determined to delay or enable ‘Obamacare.’ Rhetoric and threats were exchanged, and both parties accused the other of politicking. Party leaders met, bickered and left. Then, on the first of October, the United States government ceased all services deemed ‘non-essential’ due to Congress’s inability to pass key spending bills.
Millions of government employees were furloughed, parks were closed, services were stopped and children born in the United States were denied their social security cards. Total costs are said to be indeterminable.
The root cause seems obvious enough. Civility in politics is endangered, bipartisan talks are a halcyon and cooperation is a euphemism for flip-flopping. Sticking to one’s guns is easy, while compromising is risky. We, as Americans, should have encouraged Congress to work together rather than stick to their dramatized ideologies. We should push that now.
Here at Lawrence, it is equally important that we work to embrace that open-minded spirit of the liberal arts and apply it not just to our classes, but to our lives. We must consider every idea without prejudice. We must talk to those with whom we disagree. We must encourage a diverse discourse and respect contrary ideologies. This may be difficult on a small campus of students with seemingly homogenous views, but it can be done. Differing views present themselves in any collection of people if we only express a willingness to listen. If we can instill these values in ourselves, we may convince Congress to do the same, or at least a future congressional representative.