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“In union there is strength.”

—Aesop, ca. 620-564 BC, ancient Greek story teller

Last week, as I watched the State of the Union Address, I felt like I was on a rollercoaster. One moment I was cheering, and the next I was yelling at my TV. Then, I was laughing so loud that my dog gave me the side eye for waking him up after President Obama’s drop the mic moment. He shut down his opposition who finally clapped for him because he said he would not be running again. That inappropriate moment of clapping was the tip of animosity shown by the Republican-controlled Congress. I hoped what was displayed was not a grim glimpse of what is yet to come.

Regardless of political affiliation, I can safely say that most of us want a government that works together—one that moves forward in progress rather than regresses toward shutdown. We want to have a government that is in a state of union. Yet, I am fearful of the darkness that lies ahead of us if we have Democrats who stay to the extreme left and Republicans who stay to the extreme right.

It bothers me when a Republican female cannot clap in agreement for equal pay for men and women. I wonder if Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) would be upset if Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) earned more than her for being a male Senator. They are both in their freshman year of Congress, and they are around the same age. Would it be fair for Sen. Sasse to make more just because he is a man? Based on the lack of clapping, it seems that Republicans (male and female) would agree. I guess they also would agree with a base salary of $174,000 for Congressman and $133,980 for Congresswoman.

I wasn’t expecting Republicans to be doing cartwheels and flips, but they need to consider how their actions may appear to their constituents. They may have shown a united party front, but it looked like they are ready for our nation to be in a state of disunion. Their actions, reactions, and sometimes even lack of interest show that they care only about their agendas, even if it causes division. Our elected representatives need to remember the words they spoke across their states just a couple months ago. Were they just empty promises?

There were other times during President Obama’s address where I was left wondering if we can be in a state of union. There was not Republican applause for a federal minimum wage increase. President Obama told Congress to try supporting a family on less than $15,000 a year. I’m not sure if they would be able to do it since their base salary is more than ten times that. Yet some Republicans, such as Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL), believe that the increase is not necessary because only teenagers and first-time workers receive minimum wage. Although the median income of Rep. Schock’s district is almost $60,000 a year, 7.2% of the people with families in the 18th District fall below the poverty level. I guess they don’t count, and that “shocks” me.

As we move forward with the 114th Congress and the last two years of President Obama’s presidency, I implore you to hold all of your elected officials accountable, whether you voted for them or not. Let your voice be heard. If your senator or representative was not clapping on an issue that you support, write them a letter, call their office, or send them a tweet. Continue to follow your officials throughout the year, let them know about the issues that matter to you, and make sure that they are promoting a state of union.

 

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