Well, here we are. Last night the government shut down. Military are still getting paid and I know that many of us are very relieved about that. But still, there are plenty of folks in our community who will be affected. I truly believe most of us thought it would not come to this. That somehow the folks in Washington, who we hired to do a job with our votes, would get it together and avoid this situation.
It leaves many of us wondering if there is hope for our government. It leaves us frustrated. It leaves us confused. And, to be frank, it leaves us downright angry and fed up with the whole lot of them.
When I was at the commissary this morning, things felt different. I am not talking about the line that wrapped around all the way through the frozen foods section, past the dairy, and almost at the very end of the meat department. I am not talking about the shelves that were starting to empty or the families with their grocery carts filled to the brim with items that they know they will have to pay more for in town. Everyone that I ran into looked like we had all just rolled out of bed, thrown on our shoes and gotten in the car… probably because that is what most of us did. We woke up this morning, turned on the news… and thought “how will this affect my life and what do I need to do today to make sure my family is taken care of?” No one was getting irritated at having to wait for someone else to make their chicken selections, or at the workers who were busy unloading all of the perishables from the back room. No one was complaining that the prices were not reduced. I didn’t even hear gripes about the line I stood in for an hour to checkout.
There was a sense of gratefulness that, at the very least our military members were getting paid, and that we, at least for today, still had the option to shop at a commissary. As we stood in line we talked about the shutdown briefly, but mostly just spoke about life. When we did talk about the shutdown, we were careful with our words. We all made sure to be extra polite to the folks working there because we all know that tomorrow… they don’t have a job. When my cashier joked about asking her customers if they needed odd jobs done around the house, I gave her a smile and an apology. When the bagger took my groceries out to the car, I tipped three times what I normally would.
And then, I came home and looked at my social media and the news. And I saw a bunch of blame being thrown around. I saw people yelling at each other. I saw people from both sides of the political fence blaming the other side. I saw a whole lot of grandstanding. I saw talking points flying around. I saw a lot of misinformation (from all sides) being spewed. I saw anger. I saw nastiness. I saw division.
And I was ashamed that I had taken part in it too.
I do not make secret my political views. In the interest of full-disclosure, I am a registered Republican. I will admit to voting along party lines and I do not trust the Democratic Party. I am a fiscal conservative. I believe in smaller government. I believe in our right to bear arms. I believe in the separation of church and state. I also believe in the legalization of marijuana. I also support gay marriage 100%. And I do not shy away from a political conversation or debate. I have strong opinions and do not mind sharing them. I will let you venture a guess about where I stand with this entire government shut down and the issues surrounding the Affordable Care Act.
But I realized today…. I need to get over myself just a little bit.
Sure I may be willing to see the government shut down right now because, even if the military had not been paid, MY family would have been fine. I may feel like folks on the “other side” are throwing tantrums because they are not getting their way. I may vehemently disagree with a major piece of legislation. I may have strong opinions. I may think I am right… of course I do…
If I thought my opinions were wrong, I would have different opinions.
And it might be time to back off and keep them to myself for a while.
Because, here is the thing. Lots of Americans are hurting right now. We could argue all day long about why that is the case, we can lecture them about how they should have money in savings… that won’t change one thing TODAY. The fact of the matter is that this shutdown will impact many people’s lives. We can get online and scream back and forth at each other… and it won’t make the next few weeks (or longer) any easier for a single one of them. I can make a political statement on my facebook page… secure that MY opinion is right and that certainly my friends want to know what I have to say. But it is not going to help the cashier at the commissary pay her rent this month. It is not going to help the Vet who took my groceries to the car pay for prescription medications next week. It is NOT going to make Congress all of a sudden decide to actually do their jobs.
What it will do is create an even bigger divide between people in my life. What it will do is raise my blood pressure when someone dares to disagree with me and I get involved in a heated debate with them. What it will do is make me miss out on moments with my family because I am more concerned with what some person that I don’t even know just commented about my precious political views.
I think we all need a little breathing room. I think it might be a good idea for us all to table this heated discussion online for a bit. Sure we need to stay informed… and I think it is VERY important to continue to let our elected officials know what we expect from them… but it might be time to give each other a break. And then, it might be time to see how we help our neighbor in need make it through this mess.
That trip to the commissary this morning was a bit sobering for me. I realized that I was behaving quite differently in person than I was online. When you look into the face of people and see the worry in their eyes, see the frustration, see the disappointment… it makes you think twice about opening your mouth and spewing your own views.
We all have our opinions. We all think we are right.
It might serve us all well to vow to respect that a little bit more in the coming weeks.
Then, perhaps we can insist that our elected officials follow suit.