While avoiding the politics of a partial government shutdown, the day-to-day for the majority of us is unaffected.
Here we are, the United States government is in partial shutdown mode. Not a full and complete shutdown, mind you. Social Security checks still go out. Medicaid still gets paid. FBI, Secret Service, and Border Patrol agents are still working. Air traffic controllers still keep the sky safe and there are still plenty of security people to make the task of getting on an airplane and total and complete pain in the ass, just like every other day of our existence.
Sure, there are political reasons this shutdown occurred but we need to be mindful that this is not the first time we've been through this. There were eight shutdowns during the Reagan administration alone! Yes, there are some people who are horribly and unfairly inconvenienced but for the greater majority of people, a shutdown merely illustrates how little we rely on the federal government. Even where we do tend to depend on the government there are ways we can offset that dependency and if we're being totally honest, where we can be independent of government we probably should.
One might find themselves asking at this point, "What would those things be? What can I do without the government?"
Breathe, for starters. Remember that government is here to serve the governed and one thing which a shutdown has the ability to do is bring that fact back to a level of startling reality for politicians. They have this nasty tendency to forget who put them in Washington in the first place and what we expect them to do there. The more of our lives we continue without freaking out over the inherent ineptness of all things political the more we remind them that they are intended to be servants, not rulers.
So, let's go over just a few of the things one can do while Cadet Bone Spurs is off golfing. Again.
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Five Noble Endeavors
While there are a lot of things one can do during a partial government shutdown, let us focus first on the things one should do during a partial government shutdown. Why? Because there are some people who are adversely affected by the partial shutdown and there are some causes that we should be helping out anyway. We don't live in this world alone and while the government has the ability to serve as an efficient means of providing assistance over a broad group of people we still can pick up some of the slack on our own. In fact, we all might be better for doing so. Here are some noble gestures you can make now that possibly should become habits.
- Donate your time. Sure, you don't actually have any time, but if you schedule an hour here or 90 minutes there, just put it in your calendar, you'll be surprised at how much a difference you can make without completely disrupting your world. One of the areas most adversely affected by the partial shutdown are those services that provide care to the elderly, especially those who are homebound. Programs that deliver meals, for example, stop receiving funding. For some of those programs, that put people at risk of going hungry.
What you can do: Look around you. See who isn't having as many visitors as they normally receive. In my neighborhood, for example, I know one elderly neighbor gets a visit from oxygen supply every day at exactly the same time. While I would hope that their service is not interrupted, I'm watching to make sure that delivery happens on time. If it doesn't, then I'll be walking down the street to make sure they're okay and helping out if I can. How long might that take? Maybe an hour if there's a real problem. There are other things even more simple, such as taking someone a hot meal or driving to a doctor's appointment.
These are easy things that we've allowed government agencies to take over so that no one in need gets missed. If we're being good humans, though, no one would ever have those needs in the first place. A little of your time is a small thing to give.
- Donate your money. I know, we all have even less money than we do time. I get it. Unless your name is Jeff Bezos you are probably counting every penny and struggling to make ends meet. There's a reasonable chance, though, for about forty percent of the American population, that at least ten dollars a month could be reallocated toward charitable causes without it negatively affecting the family budget. If those who can give would give then a number of projects and services who depend on government grants would be better able to function during times like these.
What you can do: First, check your expenses to see if you have any wiggle room. For example, that $20 a month you're spending on a gym membership. Are you really going? Yeah, we know you intend to go just as soon as something-or-the-other happens but let's be honest: if you've not been in the past eight months you're probably not going back. Take that money and put it to good use. The kinds of places most quickly affected by a shutdown are things such as homeless shelters and non-profit programs for veterans. Any small non-profit that operates on a shoestring budget, to begin with, doesn't have cash reserves to get them through a government shutdown. Your donation goes a long way.
An important thing to remember here is that while your donation may seem small to you it can be life-saving for small non-profits. Every dollar they receive ads up. And we both know you're not going back to the gym.
- Care for your environment. Mention the word environment and we tend to think in terms of the whole planet which isn't terribly inappropriate. Climate change, for example, has to be addressed on a global level if we are to continue living here. What is most likely to be affected by a partial government shutdown, however, are the grants that fund things like roadside cleanup and recycling programs. Where those services are supplemented by a local municipality there probably won't be any interruption but where it is left up to entities such as neighborhood associations or other non-government organizations (NGOs) there could be a lapse in service.
What you can do: Brighten the corner where you are. Yes, that's a very, very old song from somewhere around the 1920s. The sentiment still applies, though. Clean up around you. Take a trash bag and start off down the street. Get the kids or grandkids involved. Make it a party. Don't want to leave the house? Fine. Gather material to be recycled. Look around for paper, especially. Many of us have a lot of paper trash that could just as easily be recycled. Just be sure to shred any personal documents before putting them in the bag. Once you have a hefty amount, then you take them to the nearest recycling center. If you have enough to actually get paid for your haul, then donate that money to another NGO that needs help.
Caring for the environment is one of those things you should be doing anyway. The shutdown is a good excuse to start.
- Make friends with a Dreamer. One of the reasons this current shutdown happened in the first place is because Cadet Bone Spurs ended the DeferredDACA children are often referred to as Dreamers Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, leaving it to Congress to find a long-term solution for providing a path to citizenship for children brought into the country illegally. Congress, as usual, has had its thumb up its ass leaving some 200,000 people at risk of being deported to countries that don't want them.
What you can do: DACA children are often referred to as Dreamers because the most dream of becoming US citizens one day. That path to citizenship, however, has never been clear or easy. Some try to enter the military, but even that doesn't always work. Since September, many have lost jobs or college scholarships or found their housing in jeopardy. These young people are all around us. Find one and befriend them. Let them know someone has their back. They may not need direct assistance from you now, but they could in the future if this shutdown doesn't provide them with a solution. Your friendship could mean more than you could possibly imagine.
A simple act of kindness can have a lasting impact.
- Give someone a meal. The lack of an operational government does almost nothing to affect the perpetual problem of hunger across the US. Even with programs in place, 1in 6 people in America face hunger on a daily basis. There has never been enough federal, state, or municipal assistance to thoroughly address the problem. What makes the problem worse is that the larger number of people who are "food insecure" are not homeless. Sure, the people you see on the street are in need, but in thinking they define hunger in America we miss the millions of starving people who may live in the house next door. No one needs your help more right at this very minute.
What you can do: Our ability to give away food is dictated by state and local laws. You can fix a casserole and take it to your neighbor in need but you can't double the recipe, buy some paper plates, and start serving at your local park in many cities because of health regulations (at least, that's the excuse used to stop such generosity). Public distribution of food tends to get good people in trouble. Privately, though, you can feed whomever you want. The trick is to keep it private. Invite someone to your home, take food to their home, or take a homeless person to a nearby restaurant. No one can prevent you from doing those things. You know what you can afford to do. The hungry people are there.
This is a good place to start a long-term habit
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A Shutdown Just For You
While I strongly feel that the world would be a much better place if everyone would undertake at least one of the projects listed above, let us also acknowledge the fact that, as a species, humans are generally selfish and have an overwhelming tendency to think about themselves first. I'm not sure we can help ourselves; being greedy is almost part of our DNA. I'll let you know when scientist finally identifies that gene.
What we really want to know is what we can do for ourselves, what will be fun and enjoyable while the government is shut down. We'll ignore the fact that, for the most part, absolutely nothing has changed from when the government is operating. You could do these same things pretty much any time one feels like doing them, but there's something about using the government shutdown as an excuse that makes everything a little more exciting, almost as though one were breaking the law (which we're absolutely not advocating someone do). So, maybe, after helping out someone else, we go with one of these.
- Have more sex, possibly with more people. The details of the latter part of that statement are dependent totally upon the limitations of any current arrangement in which you might be involved. The fact of the matter, though, is that the government thinks it can tell women and gay people and trans people and everyone else what they can do with their bodies. The government does not actually, nor should they ever have that power, but they do like pretend such crazy things. So, go ahead. Enjoy. Explore. Get laid. The government's not looking. Hell, given its track record there's a pretty good chance half of Congress is already doing the same thing.
- Roll a joint and puff away, if your state approves. While most of the Justice Department still work through the shutdown, the part that goes after legalized weed is otherwise occupied until everyone is back to work. Again, we're not encouraging anyone to break a law here, but to the extent one can indulge without putting themselves at risk this is an excellent time to do so. Politics are heavy, man, and it's a lot easier to deal with the nonsense if you're high.
- Pet a puppy or a kitty and give it a good home. Enduring this long political nightmare is stressful, man. Whether the shutdown last three days or three months we really worry a lot about the things that might not get done or all that isn't getting paid while members of Congress sit around accusing each other of collusion. That's why you need a pet, something that doesn't give a shit about what's happening at the nation's capital and has the ability to help you completely forget about all the stress associated with everyone running through those once-sacred halls with their pants around their ankles. Petting a puppy or a kitten relieves that stress, makes you happy, makes the pet happy, and gets the animal off the public assistance roles.
- Take a prolonged vacation. If members of Congress and Cadet Bone Spurs don't feel the need to work then why would the rest of us? After all, they're supposed to be our leaders. If we go golfing in South Florida aren't we just following the example given to us? Yes, yes we are.
- Take naked pictures. I'll gladly help with this one. If they come out really well, we'll even post 'em to the Internet for you. Sending them to your elected representatives would normally get you into trouble but all the people who work on those cases are furloughed so you have plenty of time to run. Sending them to your ex, however, is still not a good idea. He's over you, Janet. There's no going back. Look forward and find your future there.
Wrapping Things Up
On one level, even a partial government shutdown is serious business and we don't mean to make light of that seriousness. Much. On a totally different level, though, the political charades are absolutely ridiculous and there's no reason for us to not jump right in the middle of that silliness. There are people who need help and there is fun to be had. We can do both.
Just hurry, though. Shutdowns have this way of forcing compromise even when the compromise is bad for the country. Congress doesn't want to get saddled with the blame for this even though they're totally to blame. We may not have long to act.
Get busy. Do stuff. Have fun doing it.
Abide in Peace,
-The Old Man
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