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A Congressional Recess
What’s that you say? Congress is threatening to shut down the government again?! What happened this time?
Oh, they can’t agree on whether or not to “build a wall!”?
Not that I’m surprised. I mean, are you? Those guys can never agree on anything. Last time the government shut down, it was because they couldn’t agree on the budget for the fiscal year. Like, uhh, excuse me. That’s kind of your job. If I just refused to do my job, I’d probably get fired.
Almost everything that we do requires cooperation and understanding. Going to school, deciding on the next vacation, obeying traffic laws, even going through the checkout line at a grocery store. That’s why it’s such an important skill. If you don’t know how to work with other people, you will never be able to get anything done. That’s probably why Congress never seems to accomplish anything. Do you ever wonder how they go about their daily lives?
“That’ll be $18.75.”
“Well I think it should be $14.50. That extra money will just go to waste. I may as well spend it on something useful.”
Arguing with the checkout clerk about why an item costs what it does. Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? Well that’s how I imagine most of Congress’s budget discussions go – arguing over how much money to spend on each item. Sure, the national budget is not as trivial as going to Target, but what good is arguing our way through life if it’s much more effective to work together?
So how are we going to get Congress to function like human beings? It seems as though they just skipped over the part where you learn about basic human decency. When do we learn that? Preschool?
We should send every member of Congress back to preschool!
Just think about it. Preschool is where we learn all of our basic manners. How to share. How to communicate. How to get along.
How to compromise.
“I want to play with the doll!”
“No, you’ve had it all day! It’s my turn!”
This is a typical conversation heard in a preschool classroom. It usually results in one child winning the doll and the other child crying. Until the teacher comes over, sits the children down and says, “Now, Sally. You’ve had the doll all day. Don’t you think it’s time to give Eric a turn?” Sally folds her arms and pouts. “Okay, okay. Sally, what are you playing?”
“I’m playing house. I’m the mommy, and the doll is the baby.”
“And Eric? What do you want to play?”
“I want to play house, too,” Eric sniffles.
“Well there you go! Why don’t you just play together?”
The kids look at each other, nod, and then run back over to the play area, smiling happily, not realizing that they just learned one of the most important life lessons.
Now what if we apply that to Congress?
“I want to speak!”
“You’ve been speaking all day. It’s my turn to speak!”
“Now, Senator Johnson, you’ve been speaking all day. Don’t you think we should give Senator Smith here a chance to share her ideas?” The grumpy Senator folds his arms and pouts. “Okay, okay. What are you talking about?”
“I want to discuss spending our budget on a giant wall.”
“And Senator Smith? What do you want to discuss?”
“I also want to discuss spending our budget, but on education.”
“Well, there you go! Why don’t you just talk together and figure out the best way to split the budget between both ideas?”
The Senators will then have an “aha!” moment when they realize they are in fact talking about the same thing, and all they really have to do is figure out the best way to divide the budget fairly. This just requires basic finance skills (which we hope they have by this point in their life. We don’t really want to have to send them back to high school as well).
This path will, necessarily, run into some problems. Like how are we going to find a preschool teacher who will be willing to take on such a job? “Dear Miss Elizabeth. Your classroom is going to be full of politicians this year. Good luck.” I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather take on the wild grizzly bears (who apparently like to hang out in public school classrooms) than face 535 politicians. If we do find someone brave enough to take on this enormous task, then I think we should elect that person president, because he or she already has more experience than our current one.
“But what are we going to do about their deeply-rooted beliefs that are what caused them to forget their manners in the first place?” Well, you see, when I say we’re sending them back to preschool, I mean we’re sending them back to preschool. That’s right. They’re going to learn how to share the doll. We will strip them down to their most basic human form by treating them like children. Their minds will revert to a state of innocence from before they learned about politics, and they will learn how to share the doll. Then, with this new knowledge fresh in their minds, we will present them with the budget and ask them to work together to decide how to spend it. Then, and only then, will they be able to truly listen to each other and willingly compromise on the problems, and finally come up with something that both they and the American people are happy with.
Of course, convincing Congress that they actually have a lot in common isn’t as easy as it looks. Unless your name is Severus Snape, you can’t spend seven years being horrible to someone and then say, “Oh, just kidding. I actually care about your well-being and what you have to say,” and then suddenly be deemed a hero. But hey, you never know. Perhaps a little preschool treatment will be exactly what Congress needs to relearn the skills that they were taught, oh, so long ago.