Silver Linings

The recent government shutdown brought up harsh memories for me. I recalled sadly how I never caught up economically or emotionally early in my teaching career after spending just one week picketing for better pay and smaller class sizes. In New York at that time, public service workers were fined two days pay for each day on strike. That memory ratcheted up my anger over the punishing impact the January 2019 shutdown imposed on individuals, families, businesses, our natural resources and our society in general – all this havoc wreaked due to questionable motivations. It took a while for my Pollyanna heart-side to come up with any thoughts of silver linings. I share my bright side thoughts to, perhaps, help you defend against your own lingering stress.

Wait for It….

A man and a woman registering equal weight on a balance scale. Equality of the genders.

About a dozen women have been recommended, nominated for or actually competed in U.S. presidential elections (dating back to Victoria Woodhull who ran in 1872 at age 34). But my dream of seeing a female President in this great nation is still on the bucket list.

Baby hiding his face in shame

For me, Silver Lining #1 of the January 2019 government shutdown was seeing Nancy Pelosi, the first woman to become Speaker of the House of Representatives, speak truth to power and give a presidential bully a time out. Yes!

Hoorah for Nancy who did what no man of either party had done, say “No!” to the Trumpster. Due to this government shutdown, America has finally witnessed a woman dominating in a power play with the President, if not taking the chair herself.

What kind of woman? The child of a first-generation immigrant mother and second-generation father. A woman educated in traditional style, who has maintained a loving marriage and successfully raised five children. A career woman who patiently and competently earned a reputation for having extraordinary political acumen and a legendary work effort.

Nancy Pelosi rose to sustain a position as the top influencer in a major political party, and has guided presidents and historic legislation to successful outcomes. She is a woman who can gracefully stand her ground in the face of public criticism. A role model for current and future generations.

How History is Made

Did the President bring the government shutdown to an end after more than a month of rippling distress? Of course not. Was it the Speaker of the House and her political backbone? Nah. Legislators finally coming to their senses? You’re in denial about the facts.

While huge numbers of Americans see immigration from dug-in opposing foxholes, we are singularly in alignment about our desire to provide for our families. We prefer predictability and stability over sudden disruption and a growing pile of problems. What, no one checking that the vegetables arriving in the market are safe to eat? Oh no, the FBI can’t continue to pursue potential terrorist leads? What, my tax refund check might be delayed?! Seriously?

Power to the People

Silver lining #2: We have more power than we think we do. Unions for air traffic controllers, airline pilots and flight attendants warned that the shutdown was responsible for a worsening safety crisis that was “deteriorating by the day.” That got the ball moving on restoring “normalcy.” Irresistible pressure grew. Friday, January 25, three major east coast airline hubs suffered chaotic delays due to the lack of TSA agents. Only one week before Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta! It was the actions of people fed up and insufficiently fed that brought the longest government shutdown in U.S. history to an end. 

‘When you aren’t sure if you can feed your children or pay your mortgage, it takes a toll. When you put stress like that on a person, how can you focus on your job?’ — Hydrick Thomas, American Federation of Government Employees

The Power is Ours

Let me be clear, labor unions didn’t organize the growing “sick out” among workers who had been putting in unpaid time on the job for weeks. And others who were working at keeping their family situations afloat while simultaneously carrying the weight of their untended to responsibilities on the job. Those TSA agents made up their own minds. They were moved by their personal values and family’s needs.

Government workers live in every state; we came together to help each other in local areas. During this difficult period, people not directly impacted by the shutdown stretched their own budgets to offer rides to idled neighbors who were short on gas money. Restaurants fed customers for free. A crisis is a crisis no matter where the culpable terrorists were born (or elected). In this situation, it was our own dysfunctional Federal government that caused the damage. It was our resolute citizenry acting locally in a widespread fashion that made the difference.

What’s Next?

Conclusions. Our society is most resilient when we citizens rely on ourselves and help those around us. We’ve seen this after Hurricane Katrina, the devastation in Puerto Rico, the California wildfires, floods in the midwest, the action and lack of government action resulting from the 2008 “great recession”. Let’s always be mindful that we, the people working together, can accomplish so much more than working alone, and much faster than if we wait on the government. And let’s also remember, a woman can lead us to success just as well as any man. Hoorah!

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