Markland: Flipping the government shutdown switch - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Voices

Markland: Flipping the government shutdown switch

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Cecily Markland has more than 20 years experience as an editor, writer, project manager and journalist. A Mesa resident, she is the managing editor for The Beehive newspaper, serving Arizona’s LDS community, and a regular contributor to the East Valley Tribune.

Posted: Tuesday, October 1, 2013 5:52 pm

We’re used to walking into a room, flipping a switch and having the lights go on instantaneously.

That process is so engrained in us that, if the power ever goes off, we can be carrying a flashlight through our pitch-dark house, and when we move from one room to the next, we still will instinctively reach for the light switch.

Similarly, it seems, we have come to expect the government to “always be there,” operating in the background, doing its thing, lying in wait for us to have easy access should we need it.

Of course, there’s always the other side of the coin as well, the side where those services are paid for with tax dollars. Benjamin Franklin put it this way: “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

The point here is not whether we should be taxed or not, or whether we should have an ultra-limited government or not; the point is, we are used to a certain status quo.

Suddenly shut off the government “electricity,” and we are sure to notice at least some reaching-for-the-switch kind of reactions.

While some may recall the 1995-96 shutdowns, most have either long forgotten or been lulled back into complacency, thinking that the “switch” is going to continue to work in exactly the same way. Or, even if it doesn’t work, many believe it won’t have much of an effect on them.

Suddenly, however, with the first signs of a blackout, we begin to recognize some of the frustration that comes with trying to flip a switch that won’t respond.

After weeks of training, my daughter planned to hike the Grand Canyon, rim to rim, next week. That’s off. After one Gilbert father had been involved in an intense seven-month project, he and his family were looking forward to a well-deserved vacation to Yellowstone. That’s off.

For others, it goes much further than merely missing out on some fun and games. One friend reported: “A loved one got her wallet stolen; can’t get a replacement driver’s license without a Social Security card, and can’t get that because of the shutdown.”

Others are feeling the effects in their pockets. “My husband’s office was furloughed, but they still have to come to work for the next two weeks. They aren’t allowed to take any sick or vacation time during the furlough either.”

Same for this family: “No work or days of pay for my husband until it gets figured out.”

And, for this one: “My son is in the military. He has a wife and three children to feed.”

So, whether you feel the shutdown is good or bad, necessary or not — and, whether it plays out to be, as one report called it, “the most consequential shutdown ever” — one fact remains. It has left all of us in the dark somewhat, questioning when and how the light will come back on and, yet, still reaching instinctively to what we have become accustomed.

Perhaps it’s time to shine a light on that. To do so, one Gilbert mom suggested: “I decided instead of posting my thoughts [on Facebook] about this Government shutdown, I would write to my Senator and express my thoughts. I think we should all take the time and let them know what we are thinking and feeling. I hope and pray that the outcome in this great nation is for the better.”

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