John Y. Brown, III: The Government Shutdown



A post, a question and a response. And an apology.

Earlier today I posted my thoughts on the government shutdown.

“Great leadership is the ability to successfully blame others for your failures…..Said no one never.”

A longtime friend then asked if I was suggesting others shouldn’t be held accountable or tbat it was bad form to blame.

And here’s my response:

I don’t mean to say either of those things. I am saying that when the people we elect to represent us utterly fail as a body to function to the point that the entire system is shut down, I really don’t give a flip who they think is to blame until they first want to talk about their own failure to do the job they were elected to do. And that job, in my view, isn’t prissing around the halls and floors of Congress to see who can point their finger most forcefully while shrilly blaming another because someone didn’t get their way.

I am embarrassed at my country’s leadership right now. Not because they disagree but because their cause has become so petty, so limited, so thinly-veiled, so self-serving and so antithetical to a governing body that once was the envy of the world.

We should be embarrassed that our leaders have taken a pivotal policy issue of our day and while marshalling our greatest policy minds and medical and technical resources have turned the entire debate into an exercise demonstrating NOT how a great country solves its problems but rather demonstrating how petty a great nation is capable of being–in spite of its greatness.

And we as voters and citizens are complicit in this breakdown. Our elected leaders are, after all, only a reflection of ourselves. That is the good news and bad news of a democratic system.

The government shutdown is, in my opinion, hardly our finest hour in modern times as a nation. Of course, it is not our nation’s darkest hour in modern history either. But it is certainly one of our nation’s most frivolous and unenviable moments. And I hope we can muster the decency and self-respect to make it a very brief one.

—And in the spirit of my response, here is my apology.

I would like to speak for myself now and say that as a citizen and voter I have failed to take the time I should have to read and understand adequately the complex issues at the center of our nation’s healthcare debate. I have failed to listen intently and seriously to those whose politics are different from mine. I have at times sneered and dismissed those who disagree with my party’s position and selfishly sought refuge inside an echo chamber of partisan commentators, news sources, and websites.

I have not done my duty to become a adequately informed citizen and add constructively to the debate. I have chosen easy catch phrases and one-liners in place of a more nuanced and thoughtful understanding of our national healthcare challenges. I understand enough to know there are no easy amswers or obvious solutions and my self-centered and lazy approach has contributed to the trivialization and caticaturing of many important aspects of healthcare policy.

Although I have been careful not to make a habit of using social media to insult those who disagree with my party, I have at times wanted to and in private moments have done just that. I have a role in this national debate and have not asked enough of myself and can’t act too surprised that the debate has culminated today in an unspectacular moment where seemingly everyone loses and no one is to blame.

I am to blame for my failure in my small citizen role. And I hope to make up for these failings going forward. But for tonight, I can at least accept blame in some public way and apologize for my part. And do.


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