What I Learned On My Furlough

Like the majority of Fort Bragg employees, I was one of the folks sent home on Tuesday, Oct. 1. I was also one of the people that watched the news from the time I got home on Sept. 30 until the official shutdown at midnight. Call me a glutton for punishment.

10-23-13-pub-notes.gifWatching the news that night was painful. In order to ensure that I was getting all sides of the story, I channel surfed. I watched CNN for 15 minutes, Fox News for 15 minutes, MSNBC for five, because come on, who can really watch it longer than that? And then I turned to the traditional news outlets, ABC, NBC and CBS. While watching the television, I also surfed the Internet and read the various sites. Oh, and I also watched the live action on Capitol Hill via CSPAN.

What did I learn through this flurry of media? That our Congress is indeed broken, but more frightening for me, is the fact that our media is broken. Instead of reporting facts, every channel, yes every single channel, was looking at its own way to spin it. Some talked about the past shut downs; Wolf Blitzer kept showing pictures of his younger self during the CLinton shutdowns. Others tried to assess blame, yes CNN and FOX, I’m talking to both of you. And some were just completely lost. No honest questions were asked, only questions framed to get the answer or sound bite they wanted to further their spin. American journalism is broken and I don’t know if it can be salvaged.

Then of course, I marveled over the stupidity of the correspondents (yes, Piers Morgan, I’m talking about you) who were beside themselves over the fact that the monuments, parks and museums would be closed. I get it, a lot of tourism money pours into America’s coffers from visits to the parks and museums, but that wasn’t the biggest story of the shut down. They totally missed the point.

The shut down was about the people who earned their livings working in those museums and parks. From the college student who makes $8 an hour at one of the kiosks in the National Zoo to the workers who mow the lawns, sweep the floors and secure our national treasures.

Closer to home, the story was about the men and women who keep Fort Bragg running every day. And yes, I know everyone thinks federal employees are over paid and don’t do anything. That’s an old stereotype and there are many more folks working at Fort Bragg who are living pay check to pay check than you think.

A friend of mine is 65. She has worked every day of her adult life. Most of the time, she worked more than one job. She is widowed and supports an adult child. The shut down had her making some very tough real-world choices. What would she pay, what would she let slide? On the table was eating or paying her mortgage. That’s the real story that needs to be told about the shut down. Not that people couldn’t watch the panda camera at the National Zoo.

Over the four days that I did not work, I spent a lot of time reading, listening and thinking about the failure of our government to conduct business. I know everyone wants to assign blame to someone, but believe me there is enough blame to go around and no one government entity is exempt. But then again, neither are we.

We have allowed big business, lobbyists and special groups to form our government instead of the voice of we the people. We the people have gone to the polls uninformed and in many cases, like sheep to the slaughter. We haven’t studied the issues, we haven’t held our leaders accountable and we’ve drank the Kool-Aid of the month.

What did I do on my furlough? I pondered the state of our nation, and came to this:

If we want to fix our government, we have to fix ourselves. And for many, that will be painful. We, as a nation, have got to learn that there really aren’t any free lunches or free rides. Somewhere, somehow, somebody has got to pay — and unless there is fundamental change in our government, it’s always going to be people like you and me.

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