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The Greyhound

The Greyhound

The Greyhound

Breaking down the shutdown, and why we should stay informed

By the time this issue of The Greyhound finds its way to benches in the Humanities building and tables adjacent to Starbucks on Tuesday morning, the government shutdown will have been in effect for two weeks. (Actually, it’s possible the shutdown will be over by then—but at the time of this article’s writing, it is still going strong.) Just two Tuesdays ago, as the clock struck midnight on October 1, the shutdown went into effect and millions of government employees transformed into proverbial pumpkins.

My good friend texted me five hours later, in the wee hours of the morning, asking, “Can someone please explain to me what’s going on with the U.S. government?” When I woke up, I responded to her with a long and vague text that happened to use the words “furlough” and “budget agreement,” just scraping the surface of a substantial explanation. I did, however, reassure her that a government shutdown didn’t equate to complete and total anarchy.
I can’t fault my friend for being ignorant on the subjects (or get angry over her middle-of-the-night texts) because she’s studying abroad in Florence for the semester and left New York way back in August. I’m sure there are plenty of more exciting things to do in Italy than to continually check in on us back home. Even still, my friend responded that she read an article on the subject and thanked me for my answer. Feeling quite proud of myself for being so smart, I went on with my day as if nothing were different.

But where did I learn about what a government shutdown really meant? Truthfully, I texted a different friend, who studies political science, on the night of September 30 and asked her if “the shutdown starting tomorrow would be just like it was on Veep.” She told me, in essence, yes.
For those of you who don’t know, Veep is a relatively new HBO show starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Selina Meyer, the vice president of the United States. In the riotously funny show’s second season, the U.S. government shut down, much like it did this month, and the situation proved to be quite the educational experience for me. I only know that a “furlough” is a temporary layoff for government workers because Selina screamed it at her assistants whenever they pissed her off (and then “unfurloughed” them when she needed them again).

Selina told her employees it wouldn’t last long, because she was going to “shut down the shut down” herself—and they spent their time off getting spa treatments and expensive lunches.

So Veep is my window on the world in this instance. I’d rather lie in my bed all day catching up on the scripted, fictional politics of Selina Meyer’s universe then ever consider turning on the nightly news. Both require the same amount of effort, yet I consistently choose the former.
During the fall semester of my freshman year, my history professor forced me to read the front page of The New York Times every day for a class—but I did it begrudgingly. Am I alone with this attitude? Are my apathy and ignorance characteristic of people our age? If yes, why are we so disconnected from and disinterested in current events?

Veep may have taught me a few terms, but it made the concept of a government shutdown seem more laughable than it should be in real life (for example, much of the “Shutdown” episode focuses on the VP’s awkward assistant paying for her garbage to be taken away by a private company—because the shutdown meant no garbage pickup—then realizing that her garbage may contain incriminating evidence, and then going through piles of trash at the dump to retrieve it.) In the real United States, the consequences are more serious. Yes, we still have a government and a police force, and no, we are not living out the plot of The Purge, where murder is legal. However, hardworking people are losing out on their pay, and the country’s financial situation continues to get worse.
The shutdown affected many people in our area, and although we may not feel it directly, we should not pretend it’s unimportant. Current events have implications for our future; saying something doesn’t affect us now does not mean it won’t affect us someday. We should follow my professor’s lead, put down the TV remotes, and pick up The New York Times—every once in a while anyway.

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Breaking down the shutdown, and why we should stay informed