In 2013, the government shut down. It was something I watched from afar on the news. I don’t even remember what it was all about. I probably wouldn’t even remember the year if it wasn’t being tossed around in the news with another shutdown looming.
This time, it’s personal -- very personal. Funny how that changes our perspective. I’m married to one of those “good guys.” He holds the door for strangers, does the two-finger wave to passing vehicles and never says no to helping someone in need. He and his brother are both third generation federal meat inspectors, those who will be lucky enough to still get paid eventually if there is a shutdown. Other federal employees won’t be so lucky. They just won’t have a job to go to or paycheck to earn until it’s resolved.
I’ve already started to think ahead to what a government shutdown would mean for us at home. With half of our income suddenly missing, local businesses will miss out on my business in turn. My husband is good-natured about it. He takes his job seriously, and feels a duty to protect consumers from un-safe food and knows he makes a difference every day. He’s one of those good guys, after all.
Monday’s remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. brought this quote of his to mind: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
These are important words to keep in mind as I think about the political debate taking place in our country that may define the shutdown should it take place. Democrats are holding firm in their desire for young illegal immigrants, the “dreamers” as they are called, to have protections as part of any deal.
As much as I worry about how our family will be able to handle the impact of a government shutdown, I think of those worried about no longer being able to call the United States, Iowa or even Muscatine home. People who did not ask to come here by choice, but have made the best of the gift of an American life. They are people like me who are just trying to make their way in the world, go to school and to work and to be a good citizen.
I don’t know if one conversation has anything to do with the other, but, at this juncture, it apparently does. I do identify and I sympathize. My grandfather was born here, but his sisters told me about the ship they came here on from Germany, how their family just wanted to give them a better life. They wanted jobs. That same family sent three of their sons to serve in WWII. They immigrated legally, but had they done so illegally, I don’t know that I would feel any different about their sacrifice. This is a tough debate, but it’s important to remember there are humans at the root of it -- humans right here in Muscatine.