Think About It: Lucy has the football

Most of us remember the comic “Peanuts” created by Charles M. Schultz (1922-2000). For those that don’t, and I can’t imagine there are many of you, I will briefly explain.

“Peanuts” featured small children who were fascinatingly characterized by their unique exaggeration of a human trait. Hapless Charlie Brown was the ever optimistic and trusting little boy who was chronically disappointed but never lost his trust in others. Lucy van Pelt was Schultz’s version of a mean girl. She had a crush on Schroeder the little boy pianist who played Beethoven.

Linus carried a blanket for security and Pig-Pen attracted dirt and walked around in a cloud of dust and debris all day. Snoopy was possibly the crowd favorite, especially when he assumed the persona of the Red Baron flying his doghouse into a flail of bullets.

The cartoon was featured for nearly 50 years (1950-2000) and even now is read by another generation of children. If we put all the characters into one person, that person would be as human and well-rounded as Charlie Brown’s head.

Lucy will live on as Charlie Brown’s tormentor and Charlie will live on as some sort of schmuck, the stupid kind, for foolishly believing in the good intentions of Lucy, the bossy bully.

The football

Our governing bodies are taking on the characteristic of a cartoon that exists in narrow frames and simple sentences. My fondest hope is that the government will be open enough to relieve some of the pressure on people and services by the time this column is published.

It’s possible but right now it feels like a dark novel dressed up as a non-sequitur cartoon. The memory will not fade for many.

I believe our president is holding the football, the symbol of government tied up too tightly at the top by a failure of the legislative process to work. The problem seemed to start when the president-to-be campaigned on the promise of building a wall on the southern border and that Mexico would pay for it. Mexico said it wouldn’t and hasn’t.

Our president now wants the taxpayers to pay for it which requires congressional approval. He closed several government services by refusing to sign a continuing resolution that would have funded them. He claimed that the southern border was in crisis and the wall was necessary and it must be funded now.

Time will tell whether this will turn out to be the hill or wall his re-election will die on.

The newly elected speaker of the house and her party seem to believe the president has yanked the football, moved the goal posts, in other words, broke good-faith agreements so many times that Congress, unlike Charlie Brown, doesn’t want to play anymore. She said she thought the wall was “immoral” but would negotiate if the president opened the government services he closed in order to get his wall funded.

The leader of the Senate seemed to leave the building and abdicated the Senate’s role to the president, saying he wasn’t going to pass something through the senate unless the president said, in writing, he would sign it. Apparently, the leader did not like being (pick your verb: betrayed by, lied to, tricked by, manipulated by) the president either.

Squandered trust

Our president has broken promises on more than one occasion. Not that long ago, he told the Senate and House to work out a bipartisan immigration reform plan and he would approve it. They did and he refused to approve it. Very recently, he agreed to a bipartisan continuous resolution to fund these few departments, some essential, while negotiations continued. The House and Senate passed it nearly unanimously and, again, the president took back the football, rather, agreement, before anyone had time to get to their negotiation seats.

Seems our president didn’t like being called “Jeb” by a right-wing pundit and decided his proposed wall was essential to stopping “criminals, rapists and drugs from coming” into the U.S.A. Reportedly, he was advised that to give in to any aspect of the wall or seeming to support amnesty, meaning granting permanent protection to “dreamers” would “end his presidency.” Probably very scary for him.

The newly constituted House responded with a decidedly un-Charlie Brownish decision and started passing separate permanent funding bills for all but homeland security on to the Senate.

They refused to negotiate funding for homeland security, including the wall, while the other government functions were shut down, stating they did not want to establish a precedent that any president could simply refuse to sign agreed upon funding bills to get what he/she wanted. Blackmail and hostage-taking at the level of the president would render the House, Senate and legislative processes moot.

Sounds like a bunch of cartoon egos caught in a small closed room without air who aren’t smart enough to leave the room before the oxygen is gone. Except, it isn’t funny in the slightest.

Whose sacrifice?

The problem is it is the workers in these federal agencies who are either not working or working without pay who are making the sacrifice.

How is it that we can expect people to go to work because they are considered “essential,” but not essential enough to be paid.

“Off to work, we go, hurrah, hurrah,” they could sing, but probably don’t feel like singing. More and more stories of human life struggles are being told ranging from not having money to buy gas to get to work to parents who can’t afford medication for a son with a rare disorder.

I find it utterly crazy that this country has a yawning loophole so big it sets our governing processes up as prey to the same business tactics that allow a developer to stop payment and force employees, contracted services and banks to accept less because they can’t afford to be buried in legal fees or don’t want to go bankrupt.

A democratic country should not allow one or two individuals (the president, the leader of the Senate or the speaker of the House) the power to arbitrarily force people to work without pay under threat of termination without meeting specific criteria.

We, that would be concerned husband and I, have written our senators and representative proposing a bill to make it illegal to arbitrarily force federal workers to work without pay under threat of termination without meeting specific criteria such as cyber-mayhem or foreign invasion that may warrant a citizen sacrifice of this scale.

Workers performing a service on behalf of the people of the United States should not be kicked around like a loose football. It’s disgraceful and inhumane.

Bertha Cooper spent her career years as a health care organization and program administrator and consultant and is a featured columnist in Sequim Gazette. Cooper has lived in Sequim with her husband for nearly 20 years. Reach her at columnists@sequimgazette.com.

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