In a column on this page, longtime newspaperman Jim Zachary opines, “Government belongs to the governed and not the governing.”

Rather appropriate, given the current stalemate in our nation’s capital.

In their salacious efforts to further their partisan agendas, our elected leaders in Washington are using the very ones whose best interests they’re supposed to be looking out for — their constituents back home — as political pawns; mere tokens in a high-stakes game.

When seeking election to their respective offices, our elected officials in Washington are quick to reach out to the backbone of America — small business owners who drive the economic engine that powers our nation.

Yet, right now, hundreds — perhaps thousands — of these mom-and-pop businesses across the nation, even right here on the northern Cumberland Plateau, have been delivered a gut-punch by the closure of national park units. National park units, like the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area, that deliver the tourists these businesses rely on to keep the doors open and the lights on. National park units that, like the Obed Wild & Scenic River, are near the peak of their annual visitor usage periods as autumn foliage sets in.

These elected officials are quick to court the middle-class American worker when election time rolls around, but now hundreds of thousands of federal workers — many of them squarely implanted in the middle class, with home mortgages and their children’s college tuition to pay — are indefinitely furloughed . . . including park maintenance personnel and prison guards right here at home.

The rest of us are merely inconvenienced, unable to visit the Big South Fork and other national park units, unable to take advantage of federal services we’ve come to rely on. Compared to the owners of businesses geared towards the tourism industry and the furloughed federal workers, that seems a trivial matter, but it’s no less infuriating to realize that our leaders have thrown us under the bus in their efforts to one-up the other side of the aisle in an increasingly uncivil left-verses-right political war.

These men and women need to realize that they aren’t Republican Americans and Democrat Americans; they’re American Democrats and American Republicans. In other words, nation first. Politics second.

Much time has been spent over the course of the last week in an effort to assign blame. Let’s be honest: Who is most to blame doesn’t much matter. There is plenty to go around. The GOP’s willingness to shut down government is a reckless approach to the controversial health care law. And it is impossible to imagine President Clinton in 1995 stubbornly saying to then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, “I will not negotiate,” as President Obama said last week to current House Speaker John Boehner.

How they come to terms isn’t important. What’s important is that they do it. If our district’s congressional leaders — including U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Chattanooga) and U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker — and the White House haven’t heard the outrage from home and the demands that this silliness stop, they are quite frankly out of touch with the people who empowered them in the first place.