• Byron Hagan

Regarding the Government Shutdown (Originally Published Jan 10, 2019)

When my wife and I were still dating she would sometimes tease me about not watching enough news, yet, in the months leading up to the 2016 General Election, I began watching an awful lot of it. I followed the campaigns of Bernie Sanders, Hilary Clinton & Donald Trump mainly. I watched every debate, I followed the poll numbers, I saw each and every moment where many of us thought Trump's campaign would collapse around him and some somehow come out the other end. I went in to Election night just as confident as many people had been that Clinton would be the next president of the United States. Karen made me go to bed at 1am as poll numbers were still coming in and Hilary's chances were slowly slipping away.

Here we are, 2 years later and (as of this writing) this shutdown is poised to become the longest government shutdown in US history; it would beat the one in Dec 1995 under Bill Clinton. Throughout Trump's campaign, one of this central promises, as we all know, was increased border security in the form of a 30ft concrete wall all across our southern border, and making Mexico pay for it. This one point has now become so contentious that this man has now withheld paychecks from over 800,000 federal employees through a partial government shutdown and threatens to continue it for months if he doesn't get his wall. Many federal employees are working without pay in the hopes that the conflict will resolve and they'll start getting payed again. Others even have begun filing for unemployment and looking for different jobs. Most concerning to me, was the mass protest call-outs from TSA agents, the people supposed to help prevent terrorists from getting through our airports. Thought I've come to realize TSA checks will almost never actually prevent a true terrorist from getting through (also a different conversation) it's at least a process that helps us all feel safer looks good on the surface. Nevertheless, these are all people with decent jobs trying to support themselves and their families, and they're being denied that opportunity because of an attempt at manufacturing a "national emergency" at our southern border. The only emergency I see is a humanitarian crisis created by one selfish, cruel man, who is willing to let families be separated, 2 children die, and countless other be degraded and abused at the hands of ICE.

Time and time again, I have seen this man give in to his most primal, cruel and childish tendencies in nearly every decision he has made for this country. Now, I've always believed that the United States, on the whole, has its priorities wrong in terms of government spending. We waste billions of dollars in military spending instead of infrastructure, education, healthcare, etc. This has always been a country that, although championing individuality, often does so while creating a national mindset of stepping on the other guys neck to get ahead. This is the ONLY mindset that Trump seems to understand. It seems to be how he was raised, and as far as he is concerned, why would he be any other way when it's gotten him so far. Never-mind the fact that his net-worth is obviously much lower than what he has said, or he wouldn't be so cagy about his tax returns, or even that he openly profits from financial dealings with Russia, in addition to at least being fine with the idea that Russia conspired to get his elected president, knowing it would give them a better foothold of influence in United States politics. The truth is practically, completely out in the open.

Now, I've heard all of the arguments on both sides. I understand many people are frustrated with the Democratic Party as well as the GOP. I am particularly of the view that the reason Democrats have had the losing record they have had until they took back the House was that they, in general, simply have tried to take a higher road of decency of governing, again, in general. They have simply been complacent and unwilling to fight the hard fight and truly reach across the aisle, not just to their conservative colleagues, but to the red Midwesterners that were crying out to be heard, and had nowhere else to go but Trump. I think that mentality of simply assuming Clinton would win, which I was guilty of too, in part contributed to her loss.  This is also a large part of why Beto O'Rourke's Senate race was so close, he took the time to speak to as many people of different world views and opinions as him, he didn't close himself off only yes men.

This shutdown has been incredibly contentious due ONLY to the fact that Trump so desperately wants a wall to combat a threat that at worst doesn't exist, and at best is blown wildly out of proportion. The idea that thousands terrorists are trying to walk through our southern border when they could enter the country through literally any other, less grueling and faster means is complete fantasy. Nearly all acts of terror committed in the US are committed by someone who was born here, and, statistically, they're white and male, and very angry. America has created, and often prides itself on, a climate of anger and fear to keep minorities from only getting so far and keeping the pay gap as wide as it can. America was supposed to be better than this.

Now I know that some of this had probably been a bummer, but I wanted to leave you with something positive. We, The American People, as long as we have The Constitution that our ancestors left us, still have the power to change this country for the better, and it starts ate ground level. It starts with reaching out to your fellow neighbor when they need help, it starts with teaching our sons and daughters to always be curious about the world, to never believe anything in blind faith (especially teaching them the importance of safe sex and consent) and to treat each other with kindness and compassion. America's capacity for compassion, and unconditional love of its fellow men, women, non-binary, has always been its greatest strength, and we can find it again.

2020 will be the year we can finally cut out the cancer and re-build America's integrity on both the national and global stages.


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