Although some evenings are perfect getting misty-eyed over "A Walk to Remember," I think we sometimes transfer the idea of "happily ever after" into our own lives.

The flurry of excitement and planning that surrounds engagements and weddings seems to predict nothing but a rosy future for a young couple.

Somewhere, between the glowing moments of fairytale excitement and an ugly 50 percent divorce rate, something falls apart. Between the white dress and "irreconcilable differences," something vital has changed.

America does not live in a "happily ever after" story.

This isn't a fairytale; our country's story isn't inscribed in a children's pop-up book. The American Revolution did not simply end with George Washington riding off triumphantly into the fading twilight. Unlike what our romantic comedies might suggest, the long-term prosperity of any union of people, including the people of the United States, requires an extraordinary amount of work.

Our government has been shut down, for the 17th time since 1977, according to the Congressional Research Service. Some shutdowns last for a day, and some last as long as 21 days.

Admittedly, this shutdown isn't purely economic; it essentially reflects upon Obama's major healthcare bill, the Affordable Care Act, which the Senate passed through legislation on Dec. 24, 2009.

Ideally, our government wouldn't be shut down because of conflicts in Congress.

This is our reality, but it seems that less and less of the issue is with the legislation, and more with the paralyzing animosity between parties in our government.

The media's coverage of the issue has unleashed sentiments that are somewhat appalling — from decrying some congressmen as "Tea Party anarchists" to issuing statements like "we are winning." The obvious rift between conservatives and liberals has reached new extremes.

Meanwhile, the American people are taking the hit for squabbles on Capitol Hill.

I am not here to defend the Republican actions, nor to uphold the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. I am concerned with the way in which our country's leaders are handling major conflict, and the cycle of accusations and extreme polarization that our elected representatives perpetuate.

Frankly, these issues must, and will, reach a resolution. But the manner in which we reach an agreement threatens to leave behind lingering bitterness and wounds that may not quickly heal.

Leave pundits and analysts to sling around derogatory terms; our leaders themselves only do a disservice to the American people by voicing harsh criticisms and underhanded comments to the public. In fact, the comments do little but inflame the accused party.

If the President has frustrations with Republicans in Congress (which he obviously does), he has every right to be upset. With this being said, I am disappointed with the way that President Obama has publicly addressed this issue.

He recently accused the Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner of wanting nothing more than to appease "the extremists in his party" and the Republican "obsession" to stop the legislation.

Rather than publicly decrying enemies, I would like to see inroads being made without name calling and scorn; these things do little to serve our nation in any capacity.

The true difference in our nation's survival will not depend on these circumstances. They will depend upon the ability of our nation's leaders to face difficulties with grace and determination, to concede on some points, to stand firm on others. But to make statements of resentment — for leaders of both parties — only furthers the divide.

America is young, and our government system was the first of its kind; the U.S. implements ideologies of freedom in ways that other countries will never reach.

Our government's incredible uniqueness and influence in the modern world should not be taken for granted. Rather, like many relationships in life, it's important to remember that conflicts like this are inevitable.

No one ideally wants to go to war; no one wants to go through economic depressions, and no one wants the government to shut down.

But this is reality, and all of these things have — and will continue — to happen.

Our leadership makes the crucial difference at these times, and if these leaders continue to reduce themselves to name calling and escalating tensions, then the idea of "irreconcilable differences" may become the harsh reality.

Sarah Hagaman is a sophomore in English. She can be reached at shagama1@utk.edu.