Midwest Voices

Federal government: Into darkness

Updated: 2013-10-12T23:52:24Z

By KELLY LUCK

Special to The Star

It seems that Hollywood's penchant for endless reboots and remakes has spread its way to Washington, D.C.

In the past few years we have seen reinventions of “Star Trek,” “RoboCop,” “Smurfs,” “Muppets“ and so on, all of varying quality. The last thing a weary audience needed was for the nation's capital to pick up the habit.

Sadly, nothing travels like a bad idea. And so, in what may be the least-wanted remake since the Vince Vaughn version of “Psycho,” a 1995 flop, “Government Shutdown” has once again landed on an unwilling audience.

The plot has not been changed much. A relatively young and immensely popular Democrat has been swept into office as president of the United States.

The Republicans, whipped into a rage at the idea of a president who is decidedly not their kind of person, build into a frenzy of obstruction and hyperbolic rhetoric, climaxing in the shutting down of the entire government when Republican lawmakers refuse to pass the budget or raise the national debt ceiling. Necessary services are cut off, hundreds of thousands of government employees are furloughed and a helpless nation can only wait anxiously for it all to end.

There is a certain tendency, when rebooting a franchise, to go with a darker/edgier tone. This latest is no exception, with rhetoric and violence quickly escalating past the worst of the original.

Also introduced into the mix is a new set of characters, the so-called tea party. This reviewer found this group an intriguing addition, but over time tea party members proved to be badly written, cartoonish villains who bore no relation to actual human beings.

The idea that 30-odd representatives who had gerrymandered themselves into political invulnerability could essentially take a major political party hostage is really rather far-fetched. I understand that some suspension of disbelief is required, but one must ask: this much?

One thing that has not changed is the aspect of mandatory audience participation. We are all drawn into the drama, whether we like it or not.

This reviewer cannot help but recall seeing the original from a front row seat 17 years ago. She was in the military then, and as the impasse dragged on a certain malaise hung over the base, where she was stationed.

At first, it was the primary topic of the day. Over time, however, interest turned to weariness, to bitterness, and then a fervent wish that the people in charge would “just stop fooling around and get their (military term) together.” A crowd-pleaser it was not.

Like it or not, a show of this scale requires a big budget and consequently a large ticket price. That admission fee is spreading itself out slowly across the country and seeping into our daily lives.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's flu research and vaccination program, normally kicking into high gear about now, is at a standstill. Speaking of disease, if food-borne illness breaks out, there's no one at the Food and Drug Administration to track it or even do routine safety inspections.

Ditto for recalls of dangerous products. State-level social services programs that are federally funded are in limbo with no one really sure how much longer the benefits will be available.

Frankly, we've seen this show before, didn't much care for it the first time, didn't really want a rerun, and we all know how it ends. So can we, please, just skip to the denouement and just take all the petty bickering and posturing in the middle as read?

Let's get this song and dance over with. And for the love of all that is good, please, no encores.

Kelly Luck works in information technology. She lives in Kansas City. To reach her, send email to oped@kcstar.com or write to Midwest Voices, c/o Editorial Page, The Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64108.

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