June 2012, I visited US Congress on Capitol Hill. There, at the Visitor Center, they show this movie that highlights all America’s virtues. “We The People”, living in a country which the Founding Fathers were so dedicated to. Creating a society that lives up to its motto: “E Pluribus Unum”: out of many, we are one. The music was moving. A real American patriot felt tears coming up, I guess.
After that movie, you can join the guided tour. “Hi folks, I’m Mike from Arkansas. Where are you all from? Holland? Great! I’m going to show you the Dome from inside, with all its historical paintings. Tell you the stories of former American Presidents, from George Washington to Bill Clinton. He was from Arkansas too. Also, I’m going to show you all the images of the story of the War of Independence and the Civil War, which ended up to “one nation, under God, with Liberty and Justice for all”. Follow me, please!”.
The climax to a visit to the US Capitol can be watching the House or Senate in Session. I was that lucky. After three security checks, at the last one of which you are actually allowed to keep your clothes on, I watched the proceedings from the House Gallery. All went along in a very formal way in that historic Chamber, with much dignity, politeness and decorum. I knew that behind the scenes the Honorable Representatives act like they are cockfighting, yet I was impressed. (By the way: when it’s on TV, you think it’s a really big chamber – it’s not. It’s tiny.)
Today, once again, I realized the contrast to what I saw that June 2012 can’t get any bigger.
As of today, the government is shutdown. Congress isn’t prepared to balance the budget. It won’t pay its bills. Republicans, the more extreme right wing that is, are not willing to cut spending if the Affordable Care Act isn’t defunded. In other words, “take out the additional spending on Obamacare, and we will look into other areas that in our view can afford less money”, as they put it.
US Congress is polarized in a way that it is paralyzed. How a small group of Republicans can take a country hostage.
So there you have an elected US Congress, who by acting so demonstrates to “We The People” US Congress’ inability to solve this huge problem. And, in fact, any problem. How one group can explicitly and unequivocally show that “E Pluribus Unum” exist only in name.
You could say US Congress is bankrupt, as is the country. But America’s politicians will deny that. “We’re only bankrupt when we’re compromising on our basic principles. That’s something we won’t do. That’s something we want Americans not to do.” And indeed, they are not doing so.
Wherever they are, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington, amongst others, are shaking their heads, and yell: “Hey, remember: “Out of Many, We are One!” But nowadays, their voices are not heard.