It was one of those “hand over your house or we shoot the kids” moments.
But the hit-men were Republican tea partiers, the kids are now dead, and the house is the most powerful federal establishment in the world.
Through an only-in-America series of standoffs, the government is now shut down and hundreds of thousands of people at risk of destitution, as my colleague Tanya Talaga pointed out.
That’s because the tea partiers had never got over the passage of President Barack Obama’s medical care bill (which forces affordable medical care down Americans’ throats, whether they like it or not.) So they peevishly refused to pass a budget bill that funds the federal government’s operations if Obama care wasn’t suspended for a year.
So what is to be done?
With D.C. trash collection due to end in a couple of weeks, the lawmakers will soon be up to their necks in the kind of stuff they’ve been tossing around in Congress.
But that isn’t enough for irate onlookers inside and outside the Beltway, many of whom are now going on unaffordable, unpaid vacations. And they can’t turn for solace to the public parks and bike trails: those are closed down too. So are Washington’s famed public museums, and the zoo – though happily, no Congressman is mean enough (yet) to starve the baby pandas.
Washington Post columnist Petula Dvorak asked social media followers for the best ways to punish the errant lawmakers. Unsurprisingly, she got a flood of answers.
- “No paycheck,” hissed a disgruntled hotel manager who added “If I don’t do my job I don’t get paid.”
- “Billy Joel concert at (Republican House Speaker John) Boehner’s house, 24/7, starring Yanni, the Carpenters, New Kids on the Block, Seals & Crofts,” huffed a journalism professor.
- “Line ‘em up and shoot ‘em,” raged a retiree who runs a T-shirt stand near Capitol Hill. “I consider what they’re doing as treason.”
- A French teacher added a Gallic touch: “off with their heads.”
But on this fraught issue, maybe the Chinese should have the last word. They were, after all, pioneers of “re-education camps” for people they accused of sabotaging the state.
How about a month on rice and water, with daily recitation of the American Constitution until they get it right?
All together now: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America..”
Olivia Ward has covered conflicts, politics and human rights from the former Soviet Union to the Middle East and the U.S.