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Government Shutdown Globally Significant, Bigger Than You

F. Jaspar Abu-Jaber |
October 1, 2013 | 2:51 p.m. PDT


To my fellow American citizens: it’s not about you.

Can we stop pretending the shutdown doesn't matter? (torbakhopper, Creative Commons)
Can we stop pretending the shutdown doesn't matter? (torbakhopper, Creative Commons)

The government has shut down, and though numerous listicles in recent days have gone on and on about how limited the consequences of a shutdown are, (usually focusing on the immediate lack of mayhem and the fact that meat will still be inspected for quality), it actually does matter.  

The issue is bigger than any of us, and limiting our interest to what is right in front of our faces is both pitiful and misguided.  

Consider for a second the significance of the fact that the government of the United States of America was so inept at doing its job of governance that it just failed. While the inability of the legislature to actually legislate is by now a cynically accepted fact, the fact that politicians are willing to use a government shutdown as a political tool is a scary concept. While standing by one’s morals is a valuable trait, refusing to compromise in government amounts to failure. Which apparently means that we are living in a failed country.  

The issue of whether or not to provide healthcare to citizens is undoubtedly at the center of the argument over the proper relationship between state and individual. President Obama is certainly unwilling to defund his signature piece of legislation and, indeed, most of the United States seems to agree with him. Republicans, especially Tea Partiers, are similarly entrenched against what they see as huge government overstep into the lives of private citizens.  They point out—correctly—that most of the population dislikes the Affordable Care Act. 

However, the proper response to such a disagreement is not to hold the government hostage while opponents refuse to negotiate. Our senators and representatives will keep getting paid during the furlough so they have no personal need to resolve this quickly. Both sides are hoping that the other will receive more flak then they will, so this is essentially a high-stakes blame game.  

The problem is that the shutdown is being treated as a national political problem, rather than an international concern. The United States is too deeply woven into the international landscape to pretend that this will not affect the rest of the world.  When the housing bubble burst in 2008, our economic spiral catalyzed the rest of the world to recess along with us. While not suggesting that such a dramatic event is about to occur, I feel it necessary to point out if only to reiterate that this issue is not about the services that will or will not continue today. This is about the message that is being broadcast to the world today.  

The last time the government shut down was in 1996, coming off the economic boom of the nineties. Today, it is on the heels of the Great Recession, with the United States already struggling to maintain its former influence in world affairs. The end result of our elected officials standing by their ideals so robotically is yet another sign to the world that America’s power is weakening.  

I am not the first to say this, but both Democrats and Republicans need to realize that the implementation of this law means neither the country’s salvation, nor its doom. The status of heath care in the United States is atrocious and change is long overdue. This bill may be imperfect in many ways, but at the very least it is a place to start fixing the situation rather than postponing it. For just a minute, we need to think beyond our noses and elected officials beyond their constituents and treat this situation with the gravity it deserves and needs.


Reach Contributor F. Jaspar Abu-Jaber here.



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