How did things ever get so far?
Following a bloody and destructive internecine war in which he was gravely wounded and one of his sons was killed, Vito Corleone called together the heads of the five warring families to redress their problems. Always the leader, Corleone opened the meeting by asking his now famous question: "How did things ever get so far? I don't know. It was so unfortunate, so unnecessary."
Still recovering from his own wounds, he realized that the infighting was not just destructive, it was devastating to the families' businesses and they were all losing out. They were headed in the wrong direction. Their cost of doing business was outstripping their income and the situation was not only untenable, but unsustainable.
They chose to sublimate their grievances, make the peace and return to doing their family business before it was too late. They also agreed to forego vengeance, stop attacking each other and jointly took on their common enemies while engaging in mutual protection.
"The Godfather" may only be a movie, but the scenario is both illustrative and instructive.
The hand-to-hand fighting in our central government in Washington is weakening our nation and is terrible for the country's business. Just as with the five families, our central government's excess is driving the nation on a destructive and unsustainable trajectory.
In their quest to hold and consolidate their power, those in the central government continue putting themselves ahead of and above the citizenry. Lying and misrepresentation have become routine.
Rather than focusing on our common problems, challenging our enemies and dealing with the clear and present dangers facing America, many in government have become self-serving elites flouting the law without consequence. It is time for them to stop making friends of our enemies and enemies of our friends.
Just as the five families set aside most of their differences to put their financial houses in order, protect their people and strengthen their families, the 536 people who sit atop our central government should do the same and get back to doing the nation's business before we reach an irrecoverable tipping point.
The central government must immediately secure the country by sealing and controlling our borders. At the same time they must put our financial house in order by earnestly attacking the national debt, dealing with unfunded liabilities in government programs and bringing American capital back home where it can supercharge the economy.
It is imperative, too, that we deal effectively with the nation's illicit and illegal drug problem that, if left unattended, will drive us farther into a chemical and criminal cesspool from which there will be no escape.
There's more, but absent serious action on at least those imminent threats, America may not be able to recover from the graveyard spiral being induced by central government misfeasance, malfeasance and ineptitude. The unending revelations of central government missteps and wasteful arrogance have become almost the norm.
Most people have become desensitized by the magnitude and frequency of government excess.
Many others have simply tuned it out.
What happens to a country when the central government refuses to act on behalf of the nation and its citizens?
One result is that almost no one believes or trusts the government and it loses its conferred legitimacy.
Cynicism directed at government is now at an all-time high. Fewer than half of Americans believe that anyone in government is serving them well.
The "them and us" mentality has become so pervasive and government encroachment so great that more and more people view the central government as an enemy and not as an ally or protector and certainly not as a friend.
Illness and fatigue are chronic. We are sick and tired of being sick and tired.
How did things ever get so far when it was so unfortunate, so unnecessary?
If citizens cannot look to their government and government officials for protection and justice, where can they turn?
Maybe they should get in line and ask Vito Corleone.
Dr. Terry Wallace is a Senior Fellow at the Public Policy Foundation of West Virginia, teaches on the graduate faculty at Muskingum University is a board member of the West Virginia Access Center for Higher Education.