At the heart of the Republicans’ intransigence on the budget and the debt ceiling, and their willingness to shut our government down in order to (sort-of) block Obamacare, lies an utter contempt for America’s government and its employees. A willingness to disrespect, blame, and penalize government “bureaucrats” for everything and anything. They love to quote President Reagan‘s old trope: “Government is the problem.” Well, I have a proposal for you–if you hate government so much, why not try living in a country without one?
As an asylum attorney, many of the people I represent come from countries without decent governments. They come to America because in their countries, there is no security, no jobs, no justice. Let me tell you about some of my clients.
One is a woman from Afghanistan who was pushed into an engagement by her family and her fiance’s family. The woman was highly educated and accomplished. In her job, she helped hundreds of people and she met with many high-level officials, including a U.S. Secretary of State. Her fiance threatened to kill her if she continued her work or education. Did her government help her? No, in Afghanistan, women have no rights when it comes to family matters. She had to come to our government for help, and she received asylum.
I represented a policeman from Nepal who had worked and fought against Maoist guerrillas. Although many outside observers (including the U.S. government) consider the Maoists a terrorist group, they managed to enter politics and eventually take power in Nepal. The result was that when the guerrillas attempted to kill my client, there was no one to protect him. He fled the country and received refuge here.
Another client was a man from El Salvador whose relatives were murdered by gang members. The Salvadoran government was unable to control the gang, and so the man fled to the U.S., where he received protection.
I’ve represented an old lady from Iraq. A Shi’ite militia kidnapped her son. There was no one to protect the family, so she paid a ransom to have the son released. After that, the militia continued to extort and threaten her until she came to the U.S. and received asylum.
The list goes on and on, and it’s not just an absence of government; it’s bad government: A Falun Gong practitioner who was beaten by Chinese officials; a Somali man, shot in the leg by militiamen; an Ethiopian political activist beaten and tortured by police; a political activist from Zimbabwe who was raped by police after she attended a political rally; a Rwandan Tutsi woman who saw her family members murdered in front of her; a Syrian doctor held in a torture prison; a Russian political activist stripped of his citizenship and threatened; a gay man from Egypt beaten by the police; a lesbian from Serbia who was gang raped. And on and on and on. And that’s not counting all the corruption and discrimination that are endemic in most governments around the world, but which would not form the basis for an asylum claim.
From my point of view, there is great value in an honest (or at least mostly honest) bureaucracy. To disrespect our government workers, to punish them and hold them hostage to a political agenda, and to crush their morale is not just a disgrace. It demonstrates a shocking naivete about how the world works, and about how governments and economies work. Such naivete might be excusable in a college freshman enchanted by Ayn Rand, but it is criminally negligent in an elected official.
Since they don’t have the votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act–a law that has been properly voted on and survived a Supreme Court challenge, not to mention the re-election of President Obama–House Republicans have just shut the government down. They couldn’t do that to the United States and its employees unless they had utter contempt for those employees. That attitude moves our country in the direction of places without a good government; places like Somalia, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
So, House Republicans, I invite you to visit countries where government really is the problem. Or speak to my clients, who understand all too well what that means. Maybe if you were not so ignorant, you would be a bit more respectful of the people who keep our country great, our government employees.