This government shutdown is imposing real hardship on thousands of Americans as they experience a sudden loss of income, all while their work piles up waiting for their eventual return. But there are some valuable insights that can be gleaned from the experience. Chief among them is the understanding that the dominant political parties have allowed their differences to become so insurmountable that they’ve shut down the inter-party dialogue which is so essential to keeping the engines of democracy running.
There’s nothing wrong with having political and philosophical differences, but the unwillingness to engage in conversation is forestalling any compromise. There are some members of the much maligned tea party, whose hyper-conservatism might prevent them from reaching consensus on a number of issues, but they are few and shouldn’t be permitted to sew broad divisiveness. Conservative and moderate Republicans and Democrats alike therefore have a responsibility not to be swayed and intimidated into obstructionism by the small number of their hyper-partisan colleagues.
The good news is that this problem of intense disagreement and blocked communication can be fixed, and a good example for how to fix it can be found among the religious and the nonreligious communities.
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Roy Speckhardt is the executive director of the American Humanist Association