The government shutdown is over and behind us. The national parks are reopened, tourists can visit all of the monuments in D.C., government services are back up and running, and the panda cam is back on. Thank God for all of this. Seriously.
Clearly, these past few weeks haven’t been an episode in American politics that anybody can say was perfect, or desirable in any way, most likely. But we still have a lot to be thankful for. Sure, the government was closed. Sure, our leaders could basically only agree that they should be talking, even if they weren’t. Sure, even members of Congress weren’t sure what the point to this shutdown was.
But do these realities really add up to the “crisis” mentality that seems to have been the context for so much of the news coverage of the shutdown? Is there some more basic reason for us to be grateful, beyond the end of this “crisis”?
At no point during these last few weeks did we have to wonder who would be in charge of the government when this all finished, whether this political disagreement would lead to an outbreak of violence, or if it might lead to a collapse of our existing governmental structure.
How privileged are we that these possibilities never even occur to us? In fact the very concept of such a thing happening in America might be dismissed as preposterous and inconceivable. However, it’s not as though these are without contemporary precedents around the world. What does the absurdity of the possibility of these things happening in the good old U.S. of A. say about the stability that we enjoy in our lives, even when it seems like our government is thoroughly dysfunctional?
It would be all too easy to simply overlook this basic stability of our country, and so skip over feeling grateful for the privilege we enjoy. With this gratitude for the enduring nature of our political system, even in the midst of serious disagreement, let’s look forward by considering the terms of the government’s reopening.
The bill that Congress passed to reopen the government approved funding through January 15, 2014, and raised the debt ceiling through February 7, 2014. If we’re grateful for the stability of the American government, what would we make of repeated political brinksmanship that could threaten or damage America’s reliability and credibility?