Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Impact of a Government Shutdown

I have gained quite a few unique experiences living and working in the immediate vicinity of our nation's capital for the past three and a half years. When I came out to work on the National Mall in January, 2010 I expected to have moved on in less than a year. I certainly did not know that I would meet the love of my life, get married, take on the challenge of an MA in American History, and work in three different positions with the National Park Service in the immediate area. I also did not anticipate having a front row seat for the shutdown of the Federal Government.

As we near the end of day 5 of the government shutdown, we appear to be no closer to resolution than we were on September 30 and National Parks continue to be one of the principle faces of the shutdown. It is strange to be barred from my office and forced to stay at home waiting each day to find out if I can return. It is strange to see places I used to work (most visibly the WWII Memorial) become so central to the public perception of the shutdown. It is strange to be so intimately impacted by the actions, and lack of action, of others.

It is also disturbing. It is disturbing to see how polarized representatives of the two parties are. It is disturbing to see how differently the shutdown is portrayed depending upon which media pundits one listens to. It is disturbing to see the misrepresentations, manipulations, and outright lies set forth by both sides. It is disturbing to see members of Congress, whose actions are directly responsible for the shutdown, display such a disconnect between what they are, or are not, doing, and the impact on the American people. The same Representatives and Senators who failed to pass a budget, and thus shut down the government, are repeatedly attempting to portray themselves as heroes who are opening the shuttered memorials on the National Mall to the public, while appearing to genuinely fail to understand that it is they who caused their closure in the first place. It is disturbing to see one Representative in particular Who Castigated a Ranger at the WWII Memorial, telling her she should be ashamed of its closure rather than taking any measure of responsibility himself.  It is disturbing to see the agency I love portrayed as villains, "goons", and
"stormtroopers" (amongst other things) for doing the job they are required to do. But most of all, it is disturbing to see how little most people (including members of both houses and the president) appear to understand the way this government is intended to work, which branches and levels are responsible for what, and even what the structure of the government actually is. It appears that civics education is sorely wanting in America.

On a personal level, this shutdown has come at a very good time. After spending 10 days in Georgia at the 150th anniversary commemoration of the Battle of Chickamauga,  I was behind in schoolwork and scrambling to stay abreast of each of my three graduate classes. The extra time to catch up and get ahead on schoolwork is badly needed, and I am trying to take advantage of it as much as possible. I even managed to squeeze in two trips to the George Mason Aquatic center before classes this week. Since I am taking three classes I am considered a full time student and thus have access to the university recreation facilities. I am usually so busy I cannot take advantage of this, but this past week I swam a mile before class on Tuesday and Thursday.

Yes, this is a disheartening time, but it is also a time for reflection and taking stock of life, and thus a time for remembering what really matters. One thing that this shutdown is making abundantly clear is how much better off we are founding our hopes and faith in Jesus Christ and his sovereignty than in the United States Government.

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