Friday, October 4, 2013

A Mother's Open Letter to the United States Congress

Ladies and Gentlemen of the 113th Congress:

I am writing to you as a stay-at-home parent, loved and loving wife, and proud daughter of this great nation.

I am writing to you carrying all my hopes, all my best intentions cupped in the palms of my careful hands, offering them to you, here.

I am writing to you, hoping that you will please be the leaders and human souls that you were elected to be. Please, be the intelligent, discerning, skillful representatives of the people—a sacred task—that you absolutely must be.  You all fought tooth and nail to do this job. So please, I beg of you, do it.

We are starting to actively sink. I have to assume that Congress is so busy—as you should be—that you’ve managed to overlook what’s actually happening before your very eyes. You have now veered way, way off course. We have placed our ultimate trust in you, and you’re taking us off the edge of a cliff. Though the shutdown is certainly the most obvious reason for this letter, it is only the most recent display in a long string of increasingly irresponsible choices on the part of Congress.

Your current approach isn’t working. It’s time for a course correction.

You have to learn to compromise. Truly compromise. It’s not a dirty word (I’m looking at you, far-Right and far-Left). Your ideals may be important, but your tactics are terrible and shockingly inefficient. Why do you think you’re all so frustrated? Compromise takes strength, dignity, humility, and intelligence. When you refuse to really collaborate and compromise, you look like you have none of these characteristics.

My generation’s future was mortgaged a long time ago, and we are now working that debt off for our parents, for you. Fine. That happens sometimes.

Many are still trying to stick fingers in their ears and hum a happy tune about the true severity of our environmental situation. Fine. The ball is rolling now, so I suppose there’s no crying over spilt milk.

Decades of education decisions driven by people who don’t fully understand education, or the realities of our dynamic world, have effectively dumbed down a chunk of the population to the point that they’re now unable to tell if something is good for them or not. Fine. Good thing I’m a teacher.

As far as the iceberg of how you have and are failing the American people, this is just the tip. But now, you are in an epic game of Chicken? How lovely for you, but while you’re spouting platitudes, complaining about the media, and puffing up your chests like cocks about to peck at each other, people are going hungry and actually dying as a result of your ineptitude, your self-sustaining culture of dysfunction. As the only people who can really prevent this suffering from happening, choosing to do otherwise is immoral, if not treasonous.

As a body, you are becoming increasingly irrelevant in many minds. You are becoming the self-serving obstacle that must be overcome, instead of the agent of the people that our children should be able to look up to. This is true for conservatives and liberals alike, so stop pointing fingers.

It isn’t one person or entity. It’s something so small and yet so powerful. Choices.

The problem is the accumulation of your individual choices. Most of you have made playing the game to win your main objective. You hardly bother with well-considered rhetoric anymore. As a mother, I would be humiliated if my children behaved the way the United States Congress does--on a daily basis--on the national stage no less!

You say and do things you don’t really mean, you prioritize re-election and furthering your party’s agenda over doing your job, and you practically call yourselves noble while doing it.

You’re all so hungry and desperate to survive and climb the ladder, that you have become nearly ineffectual—both sides. You are actually shutting down the government machine simply because feelings are hurt, cliques are frustrated, and you don’t like the way the pieces have fallen on the board recently.  Pull it together, people.

And all of this is so easy to fix. MAKE BETTER CHOICES. That’s it; simple as that. Make one character-driven choice today. Think before you speak and choose to do differently than you normally do. Don’t stretch the truth to get what you want, maybe say no to a deal that screws your constituents a little in the short-term for some imagined good in the long-term.  

At any moment you’re thinking of using an “us versus them” mentality, just stop. That is the sign you’re doing it wrong. Take 30 seconds to pause and really consider with whom you’re aligning yourself and why. AND FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY stop thinking of yourself as a member of your party or ideological community, and start thinking of yourself as a multifaceted human being.  

You are all there to collaborate on solutions to the problems—big and small—of nearly 317 million people. Stop wasting energy fighting each other; learn to be reasonable people.

None of you run the risk of going hungry, ever, in your daily lives. Everyday your decisions can strip food from people’s tables or even strip them of their lives. But you are always exempt from that. You should be thankful, not cocky and borderline heartless about this fact. You should feel how good it is to not waste hours of your day working for basic physical survival, and you should want to share that with more people now. You have that power.

You have the power to expect more from your colleagues. You have the power to vote differently than you’re being told. You have the power to organize and stand up as a group to say No, we will not bicker any longer. We will sit down, take our wins and losses with grace, and do good work. If you stop trying simply to survive, the rest of us can too.

I think then you may start truly focusing on the big problems—hunger, terrible education inequality, violence, real public safety. Right now, you are bickering to a halt over the wrong things.

 Though there are outspoken exceptions among you who are fighting the good fight, by the nature of how things are, you all live and die with the group. Either change that, or change the group. 
Regain your good sense, start making new allies, and do good work together. Go out there and be a person, be a friend, be a real role model on how to work together. Don’t let utter absurdity completely take over.

Please, do differently starting now. Compromise, learn when to move on, and start trying to really walk in the shoes of those you’re suppose to be working for. If you genuinely do these things, I’m certain you’ll figure it out from there.

Sending my greatest hopes for you all,

Kristin Cerda
Berkeley, California

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