In the middle of our government's shutdown--a culmination of a year of no appropriations bill--I was on a Google+ hangout with the education and literacy organization I co-founded Latinas for Latino Lit (L4LL). I interviewed filmmaker María Aguí Carter for our month-long Hispanic Heritage Month: Festival of Books who told us about her documentary Rebel: Loreta Velazquez, Civil War Soldier and Spy.
At the end of our hangout, she floated her next project which will explore the decision--a Sophie's Choice--her mother had to make between herself and brother when the family came to this country illegally. Sophie's Choice is the name of the William Styron novel upon which the Meryl Streep movie is based and is a cultural metaphor to describe any unbearable choice.
While a different context, it's a good lens through which to see what's happening in Washington as Republicans force a government shutdown and possible default on our national debt to #DefundObamacare.
Click below to watch my appearance on MSNBC's Thomas Roberts Show with Richard Lui guest hosting on September 20, 2013. Thanks to NBC Latino for isolating this clip where with guests MSNBC contributor Dr. James Peterson and Liberal Oasis' executive editor Bill Scher, I talk about lawmakers' efforts to derail the Affordable Care Act and how voters who are not Republican primary voters will react.
If you are wondering what's really prompting this fiscal fiasco or why you should care, you're not alone. Truth is, if you're a "normal" adult--meaning, you go about your life resolving differences or conflict through compromise, then the government shutdown evokes apathy and confusion.
We know that the Affordable Care Act becomes law, withstands a Supreme Court and an election challenge.
We know that a faction of House Republicans are using Congress' "power of the purse" to force this shutdown, resulting in a partial paralysis as government workers are furloughed and some services halted. Things can get a lot worst if this bumps up against the fast approaching deadline to raise the debt ceiling, (in)action that could pull our anemic economic recovery back into recession.
All over what? Republicans say they are defending liberty, fighting big government socialism, and out of control spending which will saddle down our children and grandchildren with loads of debt.
The truth lies somewhere in the middle. I, for one, worry about our government's fiscal house. But this isn't the way.
Between politics and policies are people.
Writing in his Wonkblog in the Washington Post, Ezra Klein, not mincing words, stakes a position:
"This is all about stopping a law that increases taxes on rich people and reduces subsidies to private insurers in Medicare in order to help low-income Americans buy health insurance. That's it."
So who are these low-income Americans? Millions of blacks, single mothers, and uninsured workers who make very little, clustered in the Deep South where Republican governors have chosen to exercise their states rights to not accept the Medicaid expansion, according to The New York Times.
The message I hear is: if you're poor (insert black, Latino, single head of household woman, etc.), too bad.
I don't hear the message of compassionate conservatism promoted by President George H.W. Bush. I see that the party preservationists such as Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus have become the minority under siege by emboldened, well-funded ideologues who have no respect for our democracy. This is not about Democrats or Republicans, argues Tom Friedman in his column:
If democracy means anything, it means that, if you are outvoted, you accept the results and prepare for the next election. Republicans are refusing to do that. It shows contempt for the democratic process.
While this face off in Washington continues, our citizens who have the most to lose are left to fend for themselves, not choosing between buying Jimmy Choos or Manolo Blahniks but rather between food and treatment; a roof over my head and medication.
The faction of Republicans driving this will never agree that Obamacare is a solution, certainly not perfect, to ensure more people get health care coverage.
But what we should be able to agree on is that a growing number of people are making choices that concern basic, daily survival.
They are also Americans and many live in Republican districts.
They need a hand--not a hand out--and we shouldn't turn our backs on them.Are our politics so polarized that governing will be characterized by lurching from crisis to crisis?