From as far away as we are, it is difficult to fathom the political standoff between US President Donald Trump and his Democratic Party enemies, which saw federal government in that country officially shut down for five weeks.
As services spluttered to a halt all over the country, and as some government employees even had to wonder how to feed their families after missing pay cheques, the tipping point appeared to be the threat to close down some airports because of a shortage of government-employed air traffic controllers.
It beggars belief that a president and his opponents could take their game of political brinkmanship to the point where lives were endangered. This is, surely, not what is meant by democracy. Is this what the Republicans who voted for Trump wanted? Did Democrat supporters believe their party would go this far?
At issue is the refusal by Trump opponents to approve $5 billion (R68 billion) for the construction of a wall along the border with Mexico, which is widely regarded as a meaningless gesture when it comes to improving US homeland security. But clearly, Trump has now also made himself a target with his extremist ideas. Political ego can be a terrible thing…