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What Does The Government Shutdown Say To Our Children?

Vintage closed signOn Tuesday morning, thousands of kids left for school wondering why their moms or dads were at home instead of heading off to work. Parents who work at our National Parks, NASA, FCC, IRS, and those who are civilian military workers at the Department of Defense (which has about 400,000 employees who will be furloughed today), among many other government agencies, will be at home instead of doing their jobs and helping our country run smoothly.

Our children are raised with the belief that the United States of America is the greatest country in the world: a place of freedom, democracy, and endless opportunity. But on Tuesday, as many children left for their government-sponsored schools, their parents (who happen to support their families with government jobs) were left home, having been furloughed. Family vacations will be cancelled, household budgets will be hit, and kids will wonder what happened and what their parents did wrong to be punished like this. But the parents did nothing; they were just pawns in a dangerous game of political posturing that appears, for many outsiders, as a high stakes example of bullying. So this is my question: What is the government shutdown teaching our kids?

This is the first shutdown in 17 years and is the result of a last ditch effort by the Republicans to fight President Obama’s health-care initiative on the eve that “Obama-care” was to go live. (And keep in mind that Obama-care was passed by the people.) The new fiscal year was to start on Oct. 1st, but the spending bill must be passed by both chambers in Congress, which did not happen. Some, but not all Republicans, opted not to approve the budget, which leaves us where we are now; no open National Parks, no Smithsonian, no panda cam, and countless bewildered families.

As a parent, I have to ask again: What does this teach our kids? We teach our children about the importance of working together, teamwork, and compromise in venues like the classrooms, playgrounds, and soccer fields. These are lessons that we all hope will carry on to adulthood, so when they become leaders in their households and communities, they will be able to make choices that are good, fair, and mindful. The government shutdown goes against what we are trying to teach them; our leaders are sending a very bad message to not just the Americans who work so hard to make our country run smoothly, but to their children as well. This is a case of a minority trying to control the majority with no regard for the lives they are affecting. These politicians were put into office to protect us and our families, to do what is best for us, the citizens of this great country. But what they are actually doing in shutting down the government doesn’t sound like protection, but rather extortion. As President Obama said in his address to the country, these politicians are “holding the government hostage over ideological demands.” He pointed out that this dispute has to do solely with the affordable care act, saying, “It is settled, it is here to stay.” He basically stated that it is pointless to fight an act that is already done.

I think the politicians that are holding the government hostage are in serious need of the lessons we are trying to teach our children. One woman interviewed on the Today Show suggested that they need to be put over someone’s lap and spanked. They are being — as she she noted — “childish,” and their games aren’t good for America. The very people who are supposed to support us and keep us safe by keeping us afloat and helping us thrive are putting us in jeopardy. Their actions are going against the message to our kids that the USA is a “place of freedom, democracy, and endless opportunity.” It’s just bad all around. No one likes a bully.

Do you think the Republicans who support this shutdown are acting childish?

Photo Source: istockphoto

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