A Cold Day Grows Colder.
“A House divided against itself, cannot stand.” — Abraham Lincoln, same year.
A cold, wet wind blows across the tarmacs at Chicago-O’Hare-Airport; even as the sky darkens, planes continue to roll unimpeded. The airport — already fit to bursting with international traffic — has a frantic pace more situated to holiday-travel than the end of January. Although the airlines do their best to keep flights on a consistent schedule, the flights keep arriving later and later. The word DELAYED keeps popping up in tickers across the airport in big bold letters. Because flights are delayed, business-meetings and conferences are delayed as well. Personal travel is pushed back in tow along with them.
One angry phone-call leads to another angry phone-call.
Enough phone calls travel to put not only airline managers at their wit’s end but private companies as well. CEO’s, CFO’s, and sales managers are fuming. Families are hurting with the flight delays interrupting whatever plans they’d laid. And to make matters worse, Chicago O’Hare is only one airport experiencing the same exact windfall: every major international-airport across the United States — from LAX to JFK — are all taking the full brunt of a government-shutdown-storm the same hardships.
Only a smattering of TSA agents are left to check passengers moving in and out. Because a thorough check-in-check-out is still required for the purposes of deterring domestic or international terrorism, the protocols are followed from top to bottom. Except these days, there are less agents than there used to be just a few weeks ago…much less in fact.
Some quit to find another job in the private sector and others are simply on strike to show their displeasure at how long the government shutdown has lasted. Only a brave few — after having gone almost a full-month without pay — are still performing their duty in hopes the pay will be reinstated once the shutdown comes mercifully to an end.
But to what end, exactly?
The wet winds outside the airport blow harder. People dressed in jackets, parkas, and holding every type of carry-on known to man, begin to look around at the airport commotion growing louder. Shriller, even. The line to get checked in by the dwindling TSA agents continues to get longer. One airport official grabs a pole with an extendable barrier and directs the line to wrap around…
Dumping the Water Out With A Pail.
“It’s very hard from a distance to figure out who has lost their minds. One party, the other party, all of us, the president.” — Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill (D) regarding the United States government shutdown in 2013.
The intended meaning and context regarding both aforementioned quotes may be different in their respective time period, the sentiment feels very much the same. Although the above Chicago O’Hare illustration serves as a warning if the government shutdown threatens February, it should be noted that TSA agents — and air-traffic-controllers — are not the only pieces in the government-shutdown-puzzle waiting to be solved.
In addition to airports, the shutdown also affects national parks, museums, food inspection, chemical inspection, and government-law-enforcement-agencies. Thousands of employees in these sectors have either been sent home or told to work without pay. For those who have a savings cushion to ride the storm out, the shutdown brews frustration if not contempt. For those who may be a paycheck away from homelessness — or rely on food-stamps to get by — the shutdown is equivalent to a catastrophic snowball which threatens to devour all of their resources at once.
Why impede governmental function and the well-being for thousands of citizens for the sake of party politics?
Is it merely one party — or figure — holding one idea hostage and refusing to budge?
Or is it something more?
The Broken Contract.
“The government shutdown only formalizes the dysfunction that’s been hurting ordinary Americans for decades. It is not a political shutdown but a social breakdown. Fixing it requires a reassessment of value — and values.” — Sarah Kendzior, journalist and political commentator regarding the United States government shutdown in 2013.
To declare that a government — local or national — may not have its citizens’ best interests at heart is nothing new; to suggest otherwise is failing not only to read political-theory as a subject but history as a timeline. You can point to despots, monarchs, councils, senators, representatives, judges, or prime-ministers from any era and the ‘Social Contract’ philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau posited in the Enlightenment Era seems like a streamlined version of what Confucius thought would best-serve China in all-things-government.
To the point in which any party — or figure — would simply withhold funds for branches and people demonstrates not only a lack of foresight but a lack of compromise as well. If a 5.7 billion dollar wall is deemed important enough to shut down facilities, divisions, and pay for federal employees then either a compromise must be reached or a vote must be cast for it later. It is doing a disservice both to party politics and party optics to deem one idea more important than the well-being of citizens. This is an idea that should be applied to parties of all colors, stripes, and ramparts; regardless if said idea is supposed to be the key to changing everything.
Those who have the power to end the shutdown have only two options:
1. Reach and agree to a compromise to where the wall will be voted on for another date. (Or go on without it).
2. Continue the shutdown.
In this era of blame-shifting, name-calling, and chest-thumping, there are bigger fish to fry than the ones who supposedly pose a threat south of the border. If a government cannot responsibly take care of its own citizens, it cannot expect to take care of exterior threats…
…regardless if those threats are real or not.
“Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us.” — Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Sleet mixes in with the winds at Chicago O’Hare. Voices over the loudspeaker announce that Flight 49 is departing for Denver, Colorado but not everyone has made it through the terminal. The slowdown has reached a fever-pitch and the airport-operations-managers are trying to calm the crowds down.
The lines move slower with each passing hour.
Planes sit outside, sold-out but half-boarded.
The only thing colder than the weather outside the airport are the hearts of the American citizens.
If the ruling party isn’t careful, the shutdown may cause a blizzard that has nothing to do with the weather.