Whatever the outcome of the government shutdown, some truths have emerged from the crisis.

All fanatics see themselves as heroes. They have in common a willingness to harm other people for the sake of their cause. They believe their cause to be so noble and urgent that any compromise would be morally unacceptable. The beliefs of those who disagree with them are not worthy of consideration. Innocent people are nothing but tools to be used to advance the cause of the fanatics, and if they are harmed in the process, so be it.

The United States government belongs to us, not to a group of legislators in Washington. Whether or not we love it all the time, we depend on it for countless important things in our daily lives. Thousands of ordinary people work for our government and depend on their paychecks to buy groceries and pay their mortgages.

When a Somali fisherman whose livelihood has been destroyed by foreign nations dumping toxins in his waters so he can no longer make a living by fishing, boards a ship and holds it for ransom, we call him a pirate. When a group of legislators who have better health insurance than 99 percent of their constituents hold the United States government for ransom, they call themselves heroes. But what should we really call them?

Arno Vosk M.D.


Submitted by Virtual Newsroom