Boy, am I mad…
If you have been paying attention to the media lately, you know the federal government is on the brink of shutdown. There are a number of ways to paint the picture of how we arrived at this point or who is to blame. Understand simply, in accordance with Article I of the U.S. Constitution, Congress has the responsibility to appropriate funds to the U.S. government. In an era where partisan politics have stripped individuals of any humane identity and reached a new low, Congress has been unable to reach an agreement. In short, while the President proposed a budget back in February 2010, over a year later and almost two hundred days into the current fiscal year, Congress has yet to behave as rational adults, do their job and agree to a budget that is in the best interest of the American people. With no budget and the last extension set to expire at midnight tonight, a federal government shutdown is upon us.
So what does that mean for you and me? Well, if you are a federal employee, the answer is simple. Your jobs will shut down indefinitely, as will your pay. This means, while our elected officials are bickering over ideologies completely unrelated to your livelihood – your mortgages, rents, daycare bills and tuition payments will still come due. The little mouths will still be waiting to be fed and your responsibilities will continue to mount. This issue is particularly unique to the DC Metropolitan Area, home to thousands of government employees and an African American population of almost 50%. Federal government and its employees drive the local market. I overheard one federal employee, a single mother, fretting over how she would continue to support her young children when everyone in her family that would provide emergency support are government employees too. Some federal employees have devoted their entire career to serving the needs of the public, an often thankless and under-compensated job, only to be tossed aside like a nameless toy soldier for the greater cause of pride and principle. I think D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton put it best when she said a shutdown would be the functional equivalent of bombing innocent people.
If you are not a federal employee, maybe you are a government contractor or work for a company that contracts services to the government. Maybe you are planning to buy your first home with a loan guaranteed by the FHA. Maybe you are awaiting a paper tax return from the IRS, a passport or a visa…. Maybe you are planning a family trip to see the Cherry Blossoms, National Monuments or a National Park. Either way, you and your plans are suddenly pawns in a chess game that you have no control over. It’s sad. It’s sickening. It is downright embarrassing. I could easily get into the facts as I see them. I try to educate myself with both liberal and conservative media because somewhere in between the two, a little truth can be found. However, I will not. The only fact that really matters is that this country is so divided over beliefs that we cannot see clearly to what really matters.
When I was a little girl, I arbitrarily decided that I no longer wanted to eat beef or pork. It had no religious implications – but it really does not matter if it did. I read somewhere that they were unhealthy and I wanted to live a long and healthy life. I remember declaring it to my mom and the rest of my family. My mother, ever respectful of my journey to individuality, said gently, “You don’t have to eat beef or pork, but I still love hamburgers.” She did not vow to starve me for my arbitrary decision and I did not commit to destroying all the beef in the house. I learned to make a turkey burger, and she still ate her hamburgers. This basic lesson was one that we all learn. Disagreement, diversity of thought and mind, differing opinions, they are all a part of the human experience. I know we have all heard the adage before, “Sometimes, we must agree to disagree.” Why is this basic childhood lesson something our elected leaders cannot seem to grasp?
We, citizens, are human beings. We have goals and aspirations that go far beyond political quests for power, individual goals of imposing dogmatic ideology and most importantly, some elected leaders’ overwhelming goal of limitless wealth. While I may be more interested in politics than many, it certainly does not flood my thoughts the minute I wake up until the minute I go to bed at night. You know what I think about? The love I have for my family, a laugh I shared with my friends and how thankful I am for every minute that I have with the people I love. If either side, Republicans or Democrats, gave a damn about the average American, hundreds of thousands of Americans would not be worrying if and when their next paycheck would come. It is arrogant. It is irresponsible. As the supposed leaders of the free world, I will say it again, it is embarrassing. One thing is for certain, when elected officials fail, we elect new officials. I hope we all keep this memory very fresh for the election of 2012. I am writing down names and I suggest you do too. Our government has failed all of us, regardless of which party you align yourself and we will continue to be failed until we show them that we demand a change.
We need a change.
Who is with me?