Wednesday, October 9, 2013
11:00 AM | Posted by Jill | | Edit Post
As news started spreading yesterday that death benefits were halted due to the government shutdown, one of my friends wrote "yes, the sky really is falling". Many Americans are using these past two weeks to argue that "nonessential" employees are a waste of money and proclaiming that their towns are no different, their lives have felt no impact, and that they are hunky dory so. Who cares? Let them shut it down.
Part of being a good human being is having empathy for others. Looking outside yourself, outside your town, outside your constituency (ahem, Congress) and feeling the pain of your fellow Americans with you. If you can't do that, it truly is a sign of inferior intelligence. Just read a little from psychologist Erik Erikson if you want details on that.
You don't get elected to Congress to go to Washington and blindly vote your constituents wants with tunnel vision. If that were the case, we could elect machines to go in and just type "yes" or "no" based on pure up or down votes from the masses within the boundary. Congressional drones, if you will. No, instead we elect humans because we all know that life isn't cut and dried and that sometimes, especially in times of great hardship and hurt, you need to look at the big picture. You use your constituency's wants and needs as the lens in which you view the bigger picture, and in this case, the bigger nation.
Congressmen and women are puffing up their chests and proudly proclaiming that they are fighting for the will of "their" people. But what about the people who have sacrificed everything they have, their very lives, for a country that is currently betraying them? How can you walk onto Capitol Hill knowing that you are hanging military widows out to dry? How can you, with a straight face, argue that you are willing to shut down the government, paralyze the military, halt death benefits, not pay the very police officers protecting you within the Hill's walls, and even play with the brink of default and economic ruin, on behalf of your constituency? It is ludicrous and sounds like utter insanity to the vast majority of Americans.
One of the small comforts to our soldiers is the "fact" that if something were to happen to them in war that our country would do everything in it's power to soften the blow to the family. CACO (Casualty Assistance Calls Officers) are trained on how to give the news and then take the widow or parents of the fallen through the unimaginable task of burying their soldier, sailor, or marine. Part of that includes a death gratuity of $100,000 to get through those first weeks. Pay stops when a military member is killed. Life insurance is not an instantaneous benefit. But the death gratuity helps the family get to Dover to meet the body, pay for funeral expenses, pay their mortgage and bills, and basically give them some padding to grieve before all of the paperwork surrounding death was necessary.
That is suspended right now because a bunch of Congressman have forgotten about the big picture of our country. Forgotten that one of the most important things we have is our integrity. That we keep our promises, especially to those men and women who give the ultimate sacrifice. The trust in our government is slowly but surely getting eaten away by Congressional and Presidential vitriol that makes me cringe and avoid the 24 hour news networks at all costs. It isn't all about you, tea party. It isn't all about you, Mr. Boehner. It isn't all about you, Mr. President.
It is about our country as a whole, our ability to wrap our arms around each other in the hardest times, and our ability to sacrifice our position in order to help those most vulnerable. We pay our bills because we promised we would. We pay our war widows because when their husbands got on a plane to Afghanistan we promised we would. To recant on those promises is un-American and shameful.
Wake up, America. If 5 men have been able to sacrifice their life during this shutdown, the least you can do is sacrifice a little bit of your pride for the greater good. It is time to come together and get out of this mess so that we can clean up and move forward.
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