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Editor's column: Shutdown breeds anger, apathy

Don’t be naive and think the shutdown doesn’t affect you in a personal way.

October 5, 2013
By Per Peterson , Marshall Independent

The sun did rise Tuesday morning, just like it always does.

Not even Congress can prevent THAT from happening (although a few members probably tried to filibuster the coming of a new day). And when that sun came up hours after a partial federal government shutdown kicked in, we went through our typical morning routine like nothing had changed. And, for the fortunate ones, nothing really did change.

Some have said things are being blown out of proportion; try telling that to people who depend on WIC, or people who were put on furlough. Or the cops who put their lives on the line in Washington Thursday knowing they were doing it pro bono.

But think inside your own box for a minute, and you'll realize a shutdown of this magnitude - no matter how long it lasts - does impact all of us.

Yes, we still went to work and earned money Tuesday - some 800,000 government employees didn't, or they worked without pay - but there's a different kind of effect shutdowns can have, effects that don't change what we do, but how we think.

Angst toward our elected officials, either on the local, state or national level, is certainly nothing new. In fact, it's something we all have in common. Bashing politicians is practically an American pastime. But at the federal level, we've witnessed, once again, a bumbling, bitter Congress that is not only divided, but 100 percent inept. Make than 110 percent.

Our elected officials say they're working for the American people, that they have our best interests at heart. This doesn't even qualify as rhetoric anymore. They're merely silly soundbites that are supposed to make us feel good.

ARE they working for us? Really? If so, why did Senate members not work Sunday, a day before a looming shutdown?

Easy like Sunday morning. Hope they enjoyed their day off.

Why the shutdown? Legislative polarization for starters - maybe the worst we've every seen. The Democrats whom Americans voted into office in the last election don't want to budge on Obamacare. The Republicans whom Americans voted into office can't even get along with each other.

And where's the daily dialogue so crucial to progress? These people seem to welcome facetime on CNN, but it wasn't until almost two full shutdown days had passed that stubborn congressional leaders and Mr. I-won't-negotiate met face-to-face.

Two days earlier, the House and Senate went back and forth into the night and got nowhere because they couldn't work together to find middle ground. On Tuesday, they continued their finger-pointing competition. Fast-forward to Thursday, where you had President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner personally calling each other out.

Sounds like progress to me.

I would hardly classify what members of Congress did this week as work, but given they still got paid (some are donating their showdown paychecks to charity), perhaps they have to tell themselves they're working so they can sleep at night.

So getting back to how the shutdown affects those of you who don't think you're affected.

While it might not cost you a paycheck or keep you home from work, this shutdown - the first since 1995-96 - has to concern you about the future of this country. It's worrisome - at least it should be - that the people we trust to lead continue to prove they can't, and knowing that Congress is so bad at what it does should shake your belief in the political system. If Congress and its 10 percent approval rating has withered to nothing more than a punchline in the public's eye, that signals apathy, and the less we care about how things are done in Washington, the more it hurts us as a nation and the more politicians can get away with. We have to keep an eye on our elected officials. We have to believe in and trust them; the fact that that's getting harder to do is scary when you think about it.

Our collective contempt for our government seems to be snowballing at an unprecedented rate - from people worried about the feds taking their guns away, to those with smoke coming out of their ears because they're now being forced to buy health insurance or face the consequences. Americans aren't just paranoid, they're mad.

Politicians stuck a dagger in our hearts Monday, and the bleeding hasn't stopped; in all of our minds, the damage of the shutdown has been done, no matter how long it lasts. That is, unless you've tired of politics so much you just don't care anymore.

That's a club that already has too many members.



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