As I See It

Maybe it’s Congress that’s nonessential

Updated: 2013-10-19T23:04:42Z

By Ellen Murphy

Special to The Star

At this writing, a temporary truce has been reached between the hostage-takers in Washington and the citizens who blindly elected them. We will pay our federal employees for a few months, until the big fat overfed babies again plop down on the floors of Congress and shout their unreasonable demands once again. This Cry Uncle will hold us in a half-Nelson until after the holidays.

The shutdown has been academic for a lot of us. But for my sister, employed by the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, it’s not.

Living in rural Maryland and running what is essentially a donkey rescue and chicken refuge, she lives from paycheck to paycheck. Even though she falls into an undefined, “nonessential” category (“Who do I gotta see to get a gobie or a blenny catalogued around here?” I greeted her on day three of the shutdown) of federal employees, her livelihood is anything but. Her mortgage is due on the first of the month, and she had just gotten paid when the shutdown went into effect. When she got her paycheck this week, before the agreement, she got a partial payment, and is expecting backpay in her next check. That’s when she will try to pay the other bills that are due besides the house payment.

Like a lot of Smithsonian employees, she is interested in science, history and other essentials of living in this country, pursuing happiness on a budget. She had no idea for how long she’d be out, couldn't arrange a trip away, and was totally at the mercy of a group of people who were wrongly convinced that they were doing the work of their constituents. My sister was given a check list similar to a hurricane-preparedness one: Clean out your fridge, turn off your computer, don’t open your emails. Who lives like this?

If a group of American voters exists which is satisfied only if their elected dunce successfully challenges lawful legislation, I’d like to see them have their pay arbitrarily halted and what they do about meeting a mortgage, paying a veterinarian, gas company and everything else that comes in the mail. Who are they and why aren’t they at work? They haven’t been furloughed.

At the heart of the issue: Americans trying to access the medical marketplace known as Obamacare. Since its opening moments, the web site was saddled with problems, mostly related to too many patrons trying to use it at once. Aside from the fact that this alone indicates that perhaps a lot of people need it, I would like to know how many of those trying to log on were actual potential patients, and how many were shills clogging up the works, trying to affect its success.

If I sound furious, I’m only getting started. It’s bad enough to have out of control people in office doing stupid things. It’s much, much worse to have a family member affected through no fault of her own. My sister has worked for the Smithsonian for over 25 years, and though it’s based in Washington, D.C., it’s not a political institution. It’s a focal point for Americans and visitors from all over the world. It’s not one building, but a collection of respected resources, representing a country of diversity, intelligence and humanity.

And it’s only one facet affected by this congressional madness. What other harm has this group of reactionaries caused by its crazed opposition to something they, themselves, passed into law? Maybe if they put their “minds” to it, they could overturn the law of gravity! Who needs it?

Yes, I’m tired of keeping quiet about this minority of misinformed partisans. They don’t like the president. Well, I didn’t like George Bush, but nothing kept him from starting wars he had no business starting. His insane plan was also backed by unified legislation, and there seemed to be no stopping it. Now that we know what we know about who was responsible for the attacks on us, do we feel at all embarrassed about jumping to conclusions and starting wars? Yes, but we’re in too deep, and it takes a while to make something so large go away. Hear that, Mr. Boehner?

It’s tragic that we allowed our elected dumbbells to lead us into this situation. We’re grownups who allowed children to insult our house guests, one of whom is President Barack Obama. If we were truly in charge, Congress would have to tear up its paychecks and spend all day on the phone explaining to creditors and banks why they don’t have any money in the bank.

My sister can’t be the only federal employee strapped by this, and I for one would like to see the word “nonessential” applied to legislators who claim they answer to spoiled, hateful children. They’re lying.

Ellen Murphy is a former Midwest Voices writer for The Kansas City Star. She lives in Mission Hills.

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