When it comes to understanding the ongoing federal government shutdown and impending failure to raise the government debt ceiling, I’m as dumb as the next guy. I didn’t even know till this morning that some of our national representatives got their feelings hurt because what we are experiencing is not actually a federal shutdown, but a partial federal shutdown, and they want us all to know that they would never be so mean (and stupid) to shut down the government entirely; just partially.
Well, that’s nice. The shutdown began as a clown show starring our own Sen. Mike Lee and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, two amateur and angry grandstanders. They decided that the best course for America was one that did not include a fair-priced and world-class health-care system for all Americans, especially since that plan had been hatched by a black Muslim foreign citizen who had stolen the U.S. presidency. So, instead of working the constitutional system they claim to love (and understand more than any other constitutionalist dead or living, including the original authors of the United States Constitution), they hatched a plan to shut down the government in a backdoor maneuver intended to de-fund the Affordable Care Act. They created a circus.
I’ve read many suspicious stories, watched documentaries in disbelief, and even had more than one of my close friends confide in me (often about this Halloweenish time of year) about their fear of clowns, known in medical circles as coulrophobia. Today, I, too, suffer from coulrophobia. When I see certifiable clowns like Lee, Cruz, Sarah Palin or Rush Limbaugh on TV, I reach for a Xanax, find the remote and click over to Duck Dynastyor Ink Master, where I find comfort gazing into the eyes of Louisiana gators or upon the thighs of tattooed ladies.
Those two shows reveal the spectrum of the Americans I love: the righteous, fun-loving family and the confident, inyour-face individualist. Lee and Cruz would appear to belong on the Duck Dynasty end of the spectrum, except that I’ve never seen either of them look even remotely happy, and their idea of righteousness ends with self-righteousness. If they were to appear on Ink Master, I believe they’d cry even as the Stars and Stripes are tattooed across their pasty and worthless asses.
As this government shutdown— uh, partial shutdown—progresses, I’m reminded of a report by the famous war correspondent Peter Arnett. In 1968, he submitted a dispatch during the Vietnam War about happenings in the village of Ben Tre. Part of his story included this passage: “‘It became necessary to destroy the town to save it,’ a United States major said today. He was talking about the decision by Allied commanders to bomb and shell the town regardless of civilian casualties, to rout the Viet Cong.”
To destroy a village in order to save it became a backdrop to the telling of the Vietnam War story, and can be seen in cameo in just about any Vietnam movie ever made—napalm falling onto thatched homes, or U.S. soldiers using their lighters to burn a village down. It was a confusing piece of strategy then, and remains one today, as its veracity and accuracy as policy or even official military statement is still debated. Regardless, the phrase became part of American culture and remains a symbolic and ironic oxymoron— by the time American troops exited South Vietnam, much of it had been destroyed, but little of it “saved.” The story of that phrase is but one more chapter in the Vietnam saga that includes more than one good soldier believing that if “the clowns in Washington” had left them alone, they’d have won the war in no time.
Fast-forward, and we have the clowns once again running Washington, D.C., this time of the polar opposite political stripe, but clowns nonetheless. They have shut down the government in order to save it—or, more accurately, to save us from the bleak future wrought by affordable health care. To them, it is God’s plan to ensure that we don’t live as long and as happily as the French or pay for our health care as equitably as the British. They hurt their fellow Americans in order to save them. They have put their lit Bic lighters to the hallways of Medicaid, they’ve torched our national parks, reached into our pocketbooks while packing their own, stolen special-needs programs from our children and laid waste to educational and social systems for at-risk Americans.
And that’s just the beginning. Don’t even start to believe they care about the veterans they claim to love—as they did this week at the World War II Memorial on the National Mall. It looks nice on camera, but when it comes down to it, it’s just another clown show. Before the government shutdown (Lee was holding the road map for Ted Cruz, after all, and Palin and Limbaugh were holding the gonads of each), Lee made a statement that he believed that the Senate should pass a bill ensuring that active military members continue to be paid during the shutdown. Pandering, plain and simple. I didn’t notice him push a bill for such funding.
But he’s our guy. The guy who broke America. The guy who pretends his own privileged education is exempt from his criticisms of elitism and privilege in America and who has not the grace to endow others with such privilege: On April 12 of this year, he was given an F by the National Education Association. On the same day, Lee was awarded a 90 percent positive rating by The John Birch Society. Clown suit.