Friday, October 4, 2013

Truly Essential

As we roll to the end of the first week of experiencing the 2013 Federal Government shutdown - courtesy of the arrogance and ignorance of a few clueless extremist Republicans in Congress - we thought it would be a good time to reexamine what "essential" really means.

We know that yesterday, Capitol Hill police and members of the Secret Service were absolutely essential.

On Thursday, 34-year old dental hygienist Miriam Carey attempted to use her car as a weapon, in Washington, DC. She crashed both the White House and the grounds outside the Capitol, in an escape attempt that ended in her death. Ms. Carey had her one year old daughter in the car with her - and at the time we're writing this, no reason is known for her actions.

Many of the brave members of the Capitol Hill police and the other security forces who sprang into action Thursday all had one thing in common - they're not considered "essential" personnel under the shutdown. Many of the men and women who instantly jumped into action were essentially doing their jobs for free, since no one knows when they'll actually get paid.

While those men and women were rushing towards chaos, not knowing what they were facing, people like Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul were talking about "winning" the government shutdown in front of TV cameras they thought were off. Congressman Darrell Issa was barreling around Capitol Hill at that point, pushing some of those same security people about. All three of these members of Congress were happily picking up their paychecks, since according to the rules, they're all "essential."

Frankly, we think those in Congress need to get a dictionary and look up what the word "essential" really means. While they're there, Republicans especially might want to learn the definition of what "compromise" is, too.

There are a great many things our staff members consider "essential." Our families, friends, and pets top those lists, along with fresh food and clean water. Safe places to live and work are also essential - though for Americans along the Gulf Coast today, that safety could be seriously threatened. Americans across the nation at the beginning of this year's flu season are also in danger, though we doubt workers at the CDC will get called back to work, like some of the workers at FEMA.

Whenever a crisis occurs, most people think about those they care about most. We've never encountered anyone who can't tell us why they'd do almost anything for those people they consider essential.

Yet, as the America some members of Congress claim to love continues hurtling headlong towards this completely preventable, man-made debt ceiling crisis, many Republicans seem to have no real idea why they've shut down the government. Speaker Boenher and the Republican "leadership" in Congress also don't seem to truly grasp the seriousness of what defaulting on our nation's debt would mean.

What we do know is that while those clueless members of Congress are still getting paid, some of those Capitol Hill police and other security officers - people who were willing to potentially lay their lives on the line to protect people we consider essential - won't be getting a paycheck today.

Maybe "essential" just has a different meaning to those of us who have less to lose in life.