All it took was a picture on Facebook, posted Monday morning, to get my blood boiling.
It was a picture of the Transportation Security Administration line at Logan Airport, and it wound as far as the eye could see. There was the usual caustic comment about our president too. But at this point, all the complaining in the world isn’t going to change anything — especially with this government shutdown.
Most of the time, political squabbles are somewhat esoteric. Either they involve so much money that no one can contemplate it or the issues are such the word “arcane” cannot describe them.
Even with some of the more notorious and controversial political taffy pulls, such as health care, the concept may be simple but the devil is in the details.
Right now, between the lawyers and professional politicians who run this country, they’ve concocted their own language. And whatever it is, the net result is that they legislate behind closed doors, speak words few of us understand, and write bills with enough obfuscation in them that you need cryptographers to interpret them.
This government shutdown is different. There is no ambiguity about this issue, and because of that the battle lines are clearly drawn.
And to my mind, Stephen Stills summed it up perfectly 50 years ago: Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.
There are very real consequences with a shutdown. We can see that in the number of people all around us who are now going without paychecks, whether due to furloughs or because they’re considered essential and have to work for free.
We can see it when we hear about all the people who have saved, perhaps for years, to go on vacations that involve visiting national landmarks that are now closed. And we can see it when we go to the airport and have to wait hours and hours for the privilege of taking our shoes off.
These aren’t just faceless people forced to suffer here. These are your neighbors. I’ll bet we all know someone who works in a federal job, and who is affected by this thing — which, as of this writing, seems to be dragging on ad nauseum.
One of my neighbors works for the TSA. I’m sure we all agree — regardless of our individual ideologies — that you need the TSA and what it provides. It is beyond irresponsible to ask these people, whose job it is to protect us so we can feel reasonably secure in a flying bus with nowhere to go, nowhere to pull over, if disaster happens, to work for free, or to function with a short staff.
Ditto air traffic controllers. Why should we expect them to work arduous hours on our behalf without compensation? All they do is make sure these flying buses don’t crash into each other as they zip through the sky.
I have read instances of people grousing about their tax refunds. I couldn’t care less. Maybe I’m fortunate here, but I can wait for mine. I’m more concerned about people who need to pay bills, and who — because of intransigence on the part of our politicians — may have to make that awful choice between heat and food.
I don’t want to sound flip about this, but I feel as if I’m writing an Item Santa letter even though it’s January and the season has passed. The circumstances are the same. People are being hurt by issues and actions totally beyond their control.
About five years ago, unabashed venture capitalist Nick Hanauer wrote an essay called “The Pitchforks Are Coming … For Us Plutocrats.”
Hanauer is not socialist. But he understood that sometimes there’s no justification for the way some people make money, the way they flaunt it, and for the wreckage — in terms of ruined lives — they leave in their wake.
This shutdown is not a product of unchecked capitalism, but that doesn’t mean people are going to put the pitchforks away anytime soon. We are in a protracted period of rampant lack of civility in this country. We don’t just disagree. We demonize those with whom we differ.
I’m sure — if you’ve paid attention — you know where I stand on this, and who I blame for it. But the truth is that anything that’s happening now is just the boiling point from all that’s gone on in government for the last 50 years. We’re less and less tolerant of opposing viewpoints, and more and more receptive to simplistic solutions to complicated problems. There is no shortage of people who will provide them.
And now, the fight over what many see as a simplistic solution to a complicated problem — as well as an expensive proposition that has all the makings of a boondoggle — has resulted in this shutdown.
I never shared the view that Donald Trump was going to make America great again, and certainly don’t now. But the longer this idiocy continues, the more I understand the frustration of people who may have felt drawn to Trump, who promised to cut through it all by the sheer force of his personality.
Those pitchforks are looking pretty good.
And frankly, that scares the ever-loving you-know-what out of me.