Jerry Seinfeld famously joked that Americans are so subservient to our dogs, aliens looking at us through telescopes wouldn’t know which is the higher life form. “If you see two life forms, one of them’s making a poop, the other one’s carrying it for him, who would you assume was in charge?”
While I like to imagine aliens are looking down at our humble little planet right this moment in a friendly way – like in “Contact” – we don’t have to imagine that our terrestrial neighbors are looking at the US in the same way. One has to wonder what the rest of the world thinks about our current state of affairs.
Just pretend you’re looking at us from the outside. Our government, one of the greatest systems ever crafted by men, designed to navigate a civilization through war and famine and civil unrest, is partially shut down, like a cartoonish scene from a Rob Reiner movie.
“It just so happens that your friend here is only MOSTLY dead,” Miracle Max says. “There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is still alive.”
The United States is one of the wealthiest nations in the world with the highest gross domestic product – more than $19 billion – and yet we are not paying a branch of our military. Instead, members of the Coast Guard and their families are relying on food pantries and garage sales to stay afloat, pardon the awful pun.
Our national parks are filling with garbage and feces, air traffic controllers are worried our flights are unsafe, food inspections are being cut back, and Internal Revenue Service workers – surely already among the most glum folks on the planet – are facing a chaotic and complicated tax season while drastically understaffed.
Meanwhile, our political leaders look less like adults and more like “The Little Rascals” – kids dressed in grown-up clothes, pretending at government.
Imagine you knew nothing of our long-festering battles over immigration and you learned these adults were fighting over whether we could build a wall – first an actual cement wall, then a “physical barrier,” then “aesthetically pleasing steel slats” – along one of our borders.
And because the childlike President either didn’t know how or simply refused actually to govern while he could get his wall erected, the opposing party is now taking his wall away – and his fancy speech, too!
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has turned the State of the Union – an archaic and staged political prop made for television – into a timeout for Trump, essentially saying, “You can have your speech back when you open up the government.”
Trump has, for the moment anyway, capitulated and is sitting in the corner sulking -- and likely plotting his next moronic revenge.
Meanwhile, despite Pelosi’s and Trump’s shenanigans, furloughed workers are no closer to collecting a paycheck. The Coast Guard is still working without pay. And by the end of this week, the shutdown could cost the US economy a whopping $6 billion.
What an embarrassment, and there’s plenty to go around.
Both sides will point fingers at the other party or the President for how we got to this utterly ridiculous place. But I’m willing to bet the American people would be happy to heap credit on whomever can put a stop to this nonsense, even if it means compromising.
But until then, we can sit back, watch our leaders and wait for a miracle. Have fun storming the castle!