Oct 4, 2013

My Government Shutdown

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a blog about West Point Grad and Boston University Professor Andrew Bacevich’s book, Breach of Trust, a cogent argument for universal service which underscores the distance between our government/military and the citizenry.   He attributes it largely to a volunteer army, pointing out that only 1% of the country has served in Afghanistan or Iraq (or both), accounting for the way in which we as a country have not sacrificed and so many of us (most of us) have not felt the war.  Even more chilling, the removal of the citizenry from any direct affect of war making allows the government to make war freely, which it pretty much does.  As Bacevich says, they don’t need our vote, or our money (see Bush’s off-the-books war making).

My experience of the government shutdown is at once thankfully and regrettably the same.  I do not have a grandchild in head start, or a child who has been kept from a cancer study.  I do not have a daughter or daughter-in-law dependent on WIC for formula for their children.  I do not have a father who is wheelchair bound and attempting to visit the World War II memorial.  I am not planning to visit a national park any time in the near future.   I had my flu shot, so the news that the CDC is shutting down the flu shot program is somebody’s else’s problem, not mine.

I could be glad that over 6000 people in NSA were furloughed, so they might not be spying on me at any given moment.  But I am not glad because many of them may need their jobs.  I only know one person who has been furloughed, and that person can do okay without his paycheck.

Even the sequester, which meant tens of thousands of Kentuckians lost their child and kinship care benefits, 57,000 children lost their head start programs (add 18,000 more because of the shutdown…so far), and put 1/5th of Kansas’ unemployed off of the food rolls hasn’t “really affected me”  I do not live in Kansas or Kentucky, and I am lucky enough to not need help from the government just now.

If I wanted to write to my congresspersons it would not be necessary because they are all Democrats, and they will all do the right thing — as soon as they are permitted to do so by the Repos in the House and the ersatz Speaker.

All of this points to the deterioration of citizen participation in our democracy.  The volunteer army makes it possible for those of us not involved to go on with our lives as if nothing is happening to our fellow men and women.  The sequester only really hurts some of us, allowing others of us to act as if it weren’t that bad an idea.  Likewise the government shutdown, which so far has affected so few of us (relatively speaking) that the impetus to act, even if just in protest, is minimal.  The Repos, according to the misguided Michelle Bachman, seem “happier than they have seemed in a long time.”  Sara Palin calls the shutdown a pinprick.

We are told that there are basically 15 tea party republicans that are running this show (on behalf of less than 2% of the country that sympathizes with them) and the rest of the republicans, including Boehner, are afraid to stand up to them.   Ted Cruz has handily slunk out of view, having set off this firestorm.

As a citizen, I can do nothing but sign petitions, write letters of protest, and post blogs like this one.  The game has been so thoroughly rigged that we are all like Jerzy Kozinski’s Chance the Gardner.  Except while we might not “like to watch” it is pretty much all we can do.



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Gloria. Circa 1955.

Gloria. Circa 2012.

Other than working for the American Red Cross in Korea for two years, Gloria Garvey has lived in Hawai`i since 1971. Her opinion and other writing has appeared in: The American Philatelist. Honolulu Weekly, The Honolulu Advertiser, The Honolulu Star Bulletin, The Star Advertiser, Hawai`i Reporter, Pacific Business News, Island Scene, The Design Management Journal.

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