Nothing is inevitable in Washington, DC. At any moment, honeybaked ham could rain from the sky in a whirlwind and a torrent of thunder. Every citizen in Northern Virginia could simultaneously decide to order Chinese takeout from the same place near our house on Wiehle Avenue, causing a worldwide noodle shortage and panic. Or Republicans, Democrats, and the Tea Party could get along.
The front page of the Washington Post shouts about the government budget battles, the shortfall, and the inevitability of a shutdown for all but essential personnel. I read a long explanation of the term “chimps” – which (from my vague understanding of the thing) is an oddball simian acronym that signifies a federal program which mandates government funding. It’s hard not to be bitter as I plan to sit here at my government desk, trying to do government work for the people of the United States, as Congress blusters chimpishly. The deadline is midnight Friday, although due to some weird three-day notification rule, the deadline is really midnight tonight for us. Congress is dusting off their “How to Shut Down the Government” manuals, and we’ll know in the morning whether or not to show up for work on Monday.
I guess, in a way, I’m a man who needs a mission. It’s why Bethany University was so appealing all those years: academics is a tangible discipline, which I wholeheartedly want people to share with me. A shared vision of the worthiness of this pursuit led Judi and me to serve students. Judi still works for students, albeit tangentially. After a fashion, working for the government is like a University, on a larger scale: instead of a library, for students and faculty of a university, I utilize my skillset to help the people of the United States. Does this sound egotistical? I hope not. I make no lies when I say (much like the mantra I chanted at Bethany) I could be doing my job someplace else and command a far larger salary, but I believe in the mission. Most government employees I know would say this as well. To shrink the governmental corps down to the stereotypical adage of an employee “too stupid to get any other means of gainful employment” is a gross underestimation of the spirit of many, if not all, the people I work with. They are a very talented bunch, although their creativity and timeliness is often stifled by bureaucratic nonsense. Thus is, I think, the reason federal employees were called civil servants in former times. It is the mission at their heart; at the core of their being, a vision of a better country. Last I checked, none of us is ruthless, cruel, or evil; no more than any other corporation; probably less so, since personal greed seldom enters into the decision to work for the government. It’s almost exactly the same as my decision to work at Bethany. This institution seems only slightly more stable than my old University (at least, this spring in 2011), but the same fiscal arguments are there: an underpaid, dedicated staff that only stays for a sense of working for something far greater than themselves.
I recently heard somebody say that the federal employees deserved to be decimated because it’s only fair: it’s what happened in the private sector, so it’s about time the feds got what’s their due. Bullshit. We’re all part of the same entity, you know; one America. To me, it’s like a person breaking their right arm, and being so angry, they slice open their other arm with a filet knife, just to share the pain equally among limbs. Pain is pain, no matter where you feel it in the body. More pain won’t make a healthier body; just more injury.
So Monday, I’m off to see The Colbert Report in New York City. I secured tickets a couple months ago. I requested to use a vacation day so I could see the show, which I may not need to use after all, if I’m on mandatory leave. I’ll be interested to see the topic of Colbert’s rants that night, and if we lazy federales will be the point of his satire, as I sit there, on furlough, or perhaps unemployed. I guess I’ll know when I get there.