Obama in Milwaukee.  Photo by Callen Harty.

Obama in Milwaukee. Photo by Callen Harty.

Some random thoughts on the government shutdown.

* The President and members of Congress, regardless of party affiliation, are all still getting paid and all still have their benefits intact because they are considered essential government employees (not that the majority of Americans consider any of them essential at this point).
* The Republicans are blind to irony. The primary stumbling block that led to the shutdown had nothing to do with the actual budget. The right-wing of the Republican party made it about the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, which went into effect today despite the shutdown because it is funded in a different way and is separate from the budget in question.
* Side Note: Speaking of a lack of irony it was the Republicans who originally and derisively nicknamed the Affordable Care Act by the word Obamacare, without realizing that it is much easier to say, catchy, and sends a message that Obama cares.
* The most visible result of the shutdown is the closing of the National Parks, which includes such tourist destinations as the Statue of Liberty, Yellowstone and Yosemite, all the memorials in the District of Columbia (and the Smithsonian), and many other places Americans love to go. The symbolism of closing these things down is a powerful campaign tool for whichever party succeeds at convincing the American public that it was the other party’s fault.
* The military doesn’t shut down for anything.
* The stock market has rallied all day long. Interesting.
* Tea Partiers hate government in pretty much any size, though they constantly rail against “big” government. A government shutdown is not anathema to them but a breath of fresh air. But due to ideological purity tests they don’t ever look at the larger picture to see what kind of impact smaller government has on things that all of us love and count on pretty much on a daily basis (the parks being just one small part of that). If the shutdown continues it really will hurt more and more Americans and each day that passes will send thousands of votes away from the ones who caused this. At this point just under half of Americans polled are blaming Tea Party Republicans, about a third are blaming the President and/or Democrats and about a fifth are blaming both sides and believe they are all acting like petulant children.
* This is the 41st time that the Republicans have tried to legislate against the Affordable Care Act and it is the 41st time that they have failed.
* As Jon Stewart noted on The Daily Show the law was passed by Congress, signed by the President, and upheld by the Supreme Court (which, by the way, is a conservative court). It is a law whether they like it or not. Perhaps at some point in the future they’ll be able to undo it as they are now trying to do to Medicare, Social Security, and other social programs we’ve all come to rely upon, but before they do it will be as entrenched as those programs and once Americans see how it works resistance to eliminating it will be as strong as the resistance to doing anything to Social Security. That is why they are so desperately trying every tactic now–they are afraid of it becoming entrenched and know that once that happens they will likely never be able to change it. This really is their only time to try to stop it.
* Side Note: Someone I know once drove about ninety miles for a tea party rally against taxes. I asked how they thought the four-lane highway to get there was funded, as well as their police protection while they marched and rallied, among other things. They were not really able to answer. I would ask the same person why they are so antagonistic toward Obamacare. I’d like to know what it is that is so bad about it. I’m betting they wouldn’t really have an answer for that either.
* No matter how irritating the shutdown might be to some of us who are inconvenienced by things like the parks being shut down we need to keep in mind that hundreds of thousands of American citizens are now at least temporarily unemployed and have no money coming in to pay their bills, to buy others’ products, or to save toward retirement. Those in Washington who are still enjoying their paychecks are toying with the lives of regular people like you and me over political strategies and ideologies. Hopefully voters will keep that in mind when it comes time for the next election.

About Callen Harty

Originally from Shullsburg, Wisconsin Callen Harty is the author of four books and numerous published essays, poems, and articles. His most recent book is The Stronger Pull, a memoir about coming out in a small town in Wisconsin. His first book was My Queer Life, a compilation of over 30 years worth of writing on living life as a queer man. It includes essays, poems, speeches, monologues, and more. Empty Playground: A Survivor's Story, is a memoir about surviving childhood sex abuse. His play, Invisible Boy, is a narrative with poetic elements and is also an autobiographical look as surviving child sex abuse. All are available on (and three of them on Kindle) or can be ordered through local bookstores, He has written almost two dozen plays and 50 monologues that have been produced. Most of them have been produced at Broom Street Theater in Madison, Wisconsin where he started as an actor, writer, and director in 1983. He served as the Artistic Director of the theater from 2005-2010. Monologues he wrote for the Wisconsin Veterans’ Museum won him awards from the Wisconsin Historical Society and the American Association of State and Local History. He has also had essays, poems, and articles published in newspapers and magazines around the country and has taken the top prize in several photo contests. His writing has appeared in Out!, James White Review, Scott Stamp Monthly, Wisconsin State Journal, and elsewhere. He has had several essays published online for Forward Seeking, Life After Hate, and The Progressive. Callen has also been a community activist for many years. He was the co-founder of Young People Caring, UW-Madison’s 10% Society, and Proud Theater. He served as the first President of Young People Caring and as the Artistic Director for Proud Theater for its first five years. He is still an adult mentor for the group. In 2003 he won OutReach’s Man of the Year award for his queer community activism. OutReach is Madison, Wisconsin’s lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community center. He also won a Community Shares of Wisconsin Backyard Hero award for his sex abuse survivor activism work. He has been invited to speak before many community groups, at a roundtable on queer community theater in New York City, and has emceed several events. In 2016, Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault named him their annual Courage Award winner for his activism, writing, and speaking on sexual assault.
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