How did the shutdown change your view on America?

Louiza Li De Vos
Published on Wednesday 131016
'Would you be willing to write a couple of paragraphs on how people in Belgium and Europe look at the shutdown? How has the shutdown changed your view on America? How did you see it before?'

The terms ‘Shutdown’ and ‘Obamacare’ have by definition nothing in common. It is however remarkable that they appear inextricably linked with each other in the Belgian Press.

It is fair to say that we (Europeans) barely can imagine how a shutdown would be. Here in Belgium we had no government for 541 days,but it didn't interfere with our lives that much. We could still go to museums, and the bureaucratic merry-go-round carried on.
In our minds, images of lonely dust balls floating over the deserted streets of America (like in the movies), caused both fascination and intrigue.

The shutdown became a fact when some (those-who-must-not-be-named) refused to sign the budget, to prevent the obamacare from being funded. The principle of organised solidarity is so ingrained in Belgium that we wonder why anyone in America would make up a fuss about something like that. Despite the political parties’ different ideologies, no one disputes the notion of redistribution of income, so that high quality education, culture, social security, health Insurance…is accessible to everybody.

We cannot approach the ‘obamacare’ issue without paying attention to the American political system, where one party has the last word, and where it is possible that one lobby group for example the tea party (I couldn’t help to visualise a bunch of extremists having a cup of tea, grumpily!) could have such a strong influence to bring about a shutdown of government. That one interest group can wield such a big stick over the whole country is frightening to say the least.

And then I realised why Obamacare causes so much controversy, because Americans see personal choice and freedom to be inalienable, and a law putting them under such an obligation touches the American soul at its core. And yet, I couldn’t help wonder why that should be a problem.
A creature of habit doesn’t like to change. But after a while it gets used to the change itself. Was female suffrage at first not extremely controversial, and now a basic right?


Obamacare is the law now, but this is not necessarily cause for exultation, because there’s the possibility that the next president will repeal it. I can only hope that the obamacare will trickle slowly but surely through into the American mind, so health insurance becomes evident, regardless of ideological differences.

Meanwhile a few days have gone by and the coverage about the shutdown is getting smaller, at least until October 17th, as the debt ceiling deadline approaches.

15 october 2013