What if Congress quit playing politics and actually made decisions for the benefit of the American people? How would America change? This question came to me after watching a discussion during the Enumclaw City Council on May 8th about funding school counselors from city funds to help the large number of students who are depressed and distraught over the isolation and disorientation brought on by two years of COVID.
One of the council members objected to the continuation of funding, not because he thought it was a bad idea, but because parents of students over age twelve did not have to be notified of this counseling according to state law. His argument was valid since students between the age of 12-17 are still considered minors and therefore subject to their parents’ wishes.
A discussion ensued where almost all the other council members agreed with the dissenting member’s proposal. But all those who spoke believed that it was in the students’ best interest that the extra counselors continue to help to avoid suicides and other negative results. The final vote was 6-1 in favor of continuing to fund the counselors from city-controlled money to the total of $70,000.
There was no grandstanding by any members of the Council. Politics were not involved. The argument centered around what was good for the students with the understanding that the parents were being cut out of the decision-making by the State.
One member, whom I consider to be the most conservative, if not libertarian, shared his own background as a teen. He felt, based upon his own experience, that there is a time when students need help outside of the family. He would have appreciated such an opportunity in his life since he never did transition to high school from middle school. Some parents would instead act to protect their own fragile egos rather than to help their child.
What if this same discussion occurred in Congress? Can you picture the grandstanding for the media by members, often from both parties? Concern about the needs of the students would have taken a backseat to public attention and media coverage.
I can imagine that some members of Congress would accuse other members of being leftist socialists because a plan was being proposed to use taxpayer funds to aid the depressed and potentially suicidal students. For some, the issue would be all about parental rights. The needs of the students would be co-opted to turn it into a soundbite to rouse the political base to ever higher levels of emotion.
The current Enumclaw City Council is very conservative, but they usually make decisions based upon the common good, even if they have strong political objections to the current governor and majority legislative party.
Let me say that I haven’t always agreed with Council decisions. The unanimous stand by the previous council back in late 2021 to object to mask mandates made no sense. While that Council believed that people should get vaccinated, they did not believe that employees should lose their jobs if they refused.
That Council’s view was that citizens should be able to make their own decisions. Such an argument is like saying, “Stoplights are good, but we can’t and shouldn’t require people to obey them if they think it takes away their rights.” If I had been on the City Council back in 2021, I would have vehemently disagreed with the Council’s arguments.
But the decision to do what is best for students and the vote to fund the counselors overrode the conservative leanings of our current council. If I had been in on the discussion on the issue of continuing to fund school counselors, I would have been on the same page as them. The moral reasoning of all the council members reflected both a struggle with personal morality and beliefs about the sanctity of the family. They made a decision that overrode political biases. They thought in terms of what was good for their constituents. It superseded party affiliation—unlike the arguments carried on in Congress.
If only our national legislature were not purchased by wealthy corporations and individuals to serve their donors’ personal selfish desires. How different our nation would be. Polarization would disappear from the halls of Congress to be replaced by shared concern for their constituents. If only Congress acted more like the Enumclaw City Council!