News and Tribune

October 30, 2013

ANDERSON: A slow, long, exhausted breath

By BARBARA ANDERSON
Local guest columnist

— The past month has been something in our country. Day by day up until the last hour we were played like a fine piano. It was Washington theatre at its best: A dance like no other.

The shutdown was the pingpong ball, the Senate the band, the House was the high school kids at the prom and the president was the firm principal of the high school. Love him or not, he stood firm.

We lost $24 billion as a nation in this mess. All I could think of was those beautiful national parks, all the workers, all the hotels, restaurants, souvenir shops, and airlines/car rental facilities and yet not one apology from anybody for this debacle.

I don’t often thank Republican officials publicly, but credit should be given where credit is due. Senators Donnelly and Coats voted as any seasoned, rational leader would. Rep. Todd Young did as well.

He didn’t get there easy either, but I have to say I respect the homework he did when he chose to vote with the majority. I remember seeing him late one night on the television; he looked exhausted. I called his office many times. So did a lot of people and I do believe he voted with the majority of his constituents. That is governance.

The minority has controlled for far too long at the expense of a reasoned approach to government. In a republic, government is necessary. It provides the obvious: governance; budget oversight; the creation and passage of bills and laws; and perhaps the most important thing, a sense of security for the people in the republic.

I have often disagreed with my elected officials, but rarely do I disrespect them. That only happens when no respect is shown from them or when they have blown any respect I have for them.

Congressman Lee Hamilton often voted on legislation I did not endorse but I always supported his position because I knew he had researched and thoughtfully come to a decision. Congressman Baron Hill and I definitely would disagree because he was a Blue Dog Democrat and I am as Yellow Dog as they come, but I always supported him because, again, I thought he worked hard and listened.

I was out to lunch on Rep. Young, because while his staff as always been polite and listened and visited the homeless shelter Haven House runs, I never really had any interchanges with him and he appeared to be untouchable. I want to thank him for taking the time to address the issues involved in this shutdown and ask that next time he take a more assertive leadership role to neutralize those who really don’t believe in our government anyway.

In the early 1970s, I remember people angry and shouting at each other with words like: “if you don’t like this country, go live somewhere that suits you better.” You were ostracized if you practiced your constitutional right to assemble and if you dared to speak your mind you were considered a traitor.

Well, the shoe is on the other foot now, for those who do not love this country and who hate our government, I want to say: “There is another somewhere more suited to you ... love it or leave it!”

Whatever failings we see in our government it is our government and we should protect it fiercely. It is, after all, the nation that belongs to the world, and they wait with bated breath the decisions we make.

With that kind of awesome power comes an awesome responsibility. We must lead, govern, challenge our own people, and most of all support each other.

My father would often say when the election was over to put it aside. The president is the president and deserves that respect, and the same to be said for all elected officials as long as they respected their own offices.

This country is based on service, and that includes political service. Political service meant a lot at one time in this country and statesmen did as well. Growing up, my favorite movie was “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”

That’s pretty optimistic and idealistic, I know, but oh man, when Jimmy Stewart almost collapses from the filibuster, I am sobbing. That one man could believe so strongly and passionately and to fight so hard, that is what I thought the epitome of service was about — a regular citizen serving his country and fighting for it as hard as he could.

Maybe I watched too many movies, but because of that film I actually respected the filibuster process. Not now. Now I think of the cowardly efforts to hold a country hostage and I remember Stewart’s face twisted in pain and his voice hoarse from speaking and I cry again for a lost innocence and a firm belief that we live in the best country in the world, and somehow we must once again remember that.

 — Barbara Anderson, Jeffersonville, is executive director of Haven House Services Inc. Reach her at barbanderson_1@yahoo.com