The shutdown is the least of our embarrassments 

Laughingstock

As our fair nation entered the second week of the federal shutdown, many of the GOP's best and brightest began doing a number of interesting back flips, back pedals, and other backward maneuvers in an attempt to bring themselves back in line with the rest of the country. After all, the actual shutdown turned out to be the proverbial car chased by the neighborhood dog and, once caught, the dog turned out to be pretty clueless about what to do. Even worse, the dog's friends suddenly appeared on the news making sure everyone knew they had no part in this bit of strangeness, and they were ashamed of their doggie buddy's behavior.

Actually, that's a terrible analogy. Dogs are loyal and faithful companions, unlike the many members of the Republican Party, who have wept and gnashed their teeth for the better part of three and a half years while claiming that they would repeal or defund the Affordable Care Act by any means possible. Now they are beginning to realize that shutting down the government probably wasn't the way to do that.

Not surprisingly, politicians from Congress on down to the community level have turned against the shutdown, including North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey.

In a prayer opening last week's City Council meeting, Summey asked God to intervene in the affairs of man so that, according to The Post and Courier, America would not become the "laughingstock of the world." Well, Mayor Summey, you could probably start by not praying before the meeting of a public body. For one thing, the person for whom the Christian religion ostensibly exists actually admonished public prayer as the practice of pious hypocrites and urged his followers to "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's." I am certainly no theologian, but it does not really appear as though most American politicians are familiar with either of those two concepts.

Unfortunately, ending the practice of beginning legislative sessions with prayer by itself wouldn't be enough to save America from its current laughingstock status. In fact, being a laughingstock might actually be a step up from where we are now. If we are honest about it, there are numerous other problems that we should be highly ashamed of. The manufactured drama in Washington, D.C. — even if the consequences are real — is not high on the list.

The United States of America, still the wealthiest nation in the world, is also one of the stingiest and unhealthiest countries in the world. For instance, the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act stipulates that new mothers and fathers can request up to 12 weeks off work after the birth of a child. This sounds wonderful, except that it is unpaid time off and you have to be an employee of the company you are with for at least 12 months. Now, many people probably think that's still a better deal than what most people in the world receive, and they might throw a dart at a world map and come up with Kenya as a counter example, except in Kenya new mothers are entitled to two months of leave at full pay.

I suppose though, we can take comfort knowing that our children have a fairly good chance of growing up big and strong. After all, we live in an advanced culture with excellent healthcare and nutrition for all of our citizens, right? Unfortunately, America's infant mortality rate is just above the nation states that once comprised Yugoslavia.

Still, most of the children born here do survive, but it's a damn shame that one in five of those children live below the obscenely low "poverty line." We are unable to guarantee our children proper nutrition, much less a decent education or any hope of a life filled with anything more than a meaningless "career" in the service industry, making a wage that is comparable to what our grandparents made in the 1950s. So much for economic progress for the masses; the rewards are reaped only at the highest echelons, it seems.

Is it any wonder then that our nation has an astronomical incarceration rate and that an incredibly disproportionate number of those prisoners are minorities? The fact that these problems continue to exist is a testament to the disconnect between the people who claim to work for us and our best interests and the actual interests that they represent.

Mayor Summey should be thankful if the world only sees us as a laughingstock and not as a complete failure.


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