Guest Commentary

July 28, 2011 |

By Vernon Naffier


What's wrong with Congress?


The following is a shamefully outrageous example of the incivility and polarization — even enemy mentality — that is dominating the U.S. Congress and many state legislatures and critically jeopardizing the well-being of our country. Lest we be blindsided, we should be aware that it is happening largely in the name of corporate profiteering and economic upper class privilege and snobbery camouflaged currently under the beneficent appearing guise of trying to bring the national debt under control. Here is an example of the kind of discourse that is taking place in and outside the halls of Congress:

"You are the most vile, unprofessional, and despicable member of the US House of Representatives... you are not a Lady." - Republican Congressman Allen West in an email to Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz

On Wednesday, July 19, West sent a disgraceful email to Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz, telling her to "shut the heck up" for daring to challenge the GOP plan to gut Medicare and Social Security to pay for tax cuts for billionaires.

This may sound like an extreme case just short of members of Congress gunning one another down, but it is not an isolated incident. There is a pernicious evil in our legislative bodies that is literally clawing away at the health of our nation and of its people. It is a vileness exhibited by exclusivism, party spirit, self-serving, greed, arrogant pride and hatefulness. While this can be said of both major parties, currently the mean-spiritedness lies predominantly more with one party than with the other. Of course, our political leaders of either party self-righteously exonerate themselves of such charges. There is nevertheless a patent moral sickness in our politics of a kind that greatly weakens and can even bring down a nation unless its higher-minded citizenry rises up to stop it. When allowed to advance too far and when people become anesthetized to the growing danger confronting them, the pathology finally reaches the point of becoming uncontrollable and patricidal as the history of other nations before us and around us ought to teach us.

More often than we perhaps would like to admit, electorates seem to be all too willing to throw their support to tyrannical and oligarchical leadership, whether political, economic or religious, in the tragically mistaken belief that they, the people, will benefit by doing so. But this way of thinking only and inevitably results in the demise of democracy and justice for all. And right now our democracy is being seriously threatened, not by outsiders or terrorists, but by our own elected officials, by big for-profit corporations, by much of the commercial media, by narrow religious dogmatism and by misguided voters and those who don't bother to vote.

Conscionable citizens can change all this before it is too late. But it requires a votership that is informed, intelligent, and politically and socially moral with the understanding that morality is much larger than just one or two pet issues. It is not far from the truth to say that the government that is in power reflects the character of the nation as a whole which elected the government. The elections of 2012 will reveal whether or not we the people begin to wake up as a nation to a brighter new dawn and a more just government for all the people, not just for the economically highly privileged and powerful. The American people need to place into political office those who espouse this high principle. Many of our elected officials do not as evidenced by what we see taking place in Congress and many state legislatures. CV


Vernon H. Naffier is a retired Lutheran minister and currently an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Religion and Philosophy at Grand View University in Des Moines.