The government shutdown has now been ongoing for a month, the longest of its kind in the history of the country, a full week (and counting) more than the previous longest shutdown. The Trump presidency has been (often terrifyingly) unique in many ways, and this certainly serves as yet another farcical medal around the President’s neck.
For many, following the shutdown story has meant interaction with its effects on ordinary people. Some 800,000 federal employees, in a country where nearly 80% of workers are living paycheck to paycheck, are being asked to go without a paycheck indefinitely.
Through medias mainstream, alternative, and social, the stories of these effects have come fast, furious, and heartbreaking. These are stories of people unable to pay their mortgage or rent, facing homelessness, unable to pay medical bills, people without access to food stamps going without food.
For many, thinking about the shutdown is thinking about these people, experiencing the feeling in the pit of the stomach which comes when such thoughts are combined with human empathy.
But everyone is different, and not everyone interacts with an issue the same way, different things peak curiosity or concern, cause anger, or pleasure, or engagement.
For some people, the only feeling in the pit of the stomach caused by the shutdown is the gentle soreness that follows a hearty chuckle.
They were those with Cheshire cat grins as Trump welcomed college football National Champions Clemson to the White House this week with an avalanche of fast food, a thousand hamburgers “because we have a shutdown,” and White House catering staff are not at work.
They were those laughing and wailing as Trump effectively cancelled a trip headed by Nancy Pelosi to visit the troops in Afghanistan, “Due to the Shutdown,” by denying use of a military plane mere hours before the excursion was set to depart, adding the final troll in a letter to Pelosi — “Obviously, if you would like to make your journey by flying commercial, that would certainly be your prerogative.”
In short, these are people not interacting with the shutdown through the spectrum of human effects, and human empathy, but rather as though they were watching their favorite comedy show, as one big joke. That is, until the joke was turned around on them late this week, as a rumor started to float around that the shutdown might result in the cancellation of the Super Bowl, and panic set in.
Ironic that it would be a football game which turned the tide of concern.
Much time is devoted to the divide between Republicans and Democrats, to the passion on each side of the chasm. But less time is spent analyzing the passion itself.
For some, this passion represents a concern for the state of the country, a desire to improve the plight of fellow humans. For others, it is more like, well, watching a football game, something to cheer, yell, and laugh about without any real-life consequences beyond a sort of quasi-depression that sinks in whenever your team loses.
This is a divide, beyond mere party affiliation, worth considering when conversing about the shutdown, about any issue, with friends, acquaintances, and adversaries. It is unlikely someone cheering for a football game will be convinced to experience any sort of meaningful human compassion as they do, just as it is unlikely someone with a deep desire for positive change will be convinced it is all a big joke.
Further, if President Trump is so eager to be at the center of a football rivalry, why not own a pro-football team like his friend Jerry Jones, or start a new football league, like his friend Vince McMahon? Let someone who, for lack of a better term, ‘gives a shit,’ be President. Moreover, you’d imagine many members of Congress would be as successful rigging a system of football gambling as they have been rigging the operations of government.
And for those watching the political process as football fans cheering for their team, why not drop the charade that a border wall is the most important thing they’ve got going in life and, instead, just cheer for an actual football team?