uneasy times

I thought that I had mentally prepared myself for DT’s presidency, thinking that Congress would step up and cooperate to create sound legislation to keep us on a reasonable track.

I was, of course, totally wrong.

As of today, the United States government is in partial shutdown for a record 27 days and counting. 800,000 federal workers are either furloughed or working without pay, including the Coast Guard, air traffic controllers, and food inspectors. There are also one million contractors who work at government facilities who are not working and who, unlike federal workers, will not get back pay when the shutdown ends. Besides the workers and their families, there are also other businesses that rely on government work/ers as their customers, and are experiencing big drops in revenue as a result of the shutdown.

One of the frustrating things is that this shutdown should not have happened in the first place. After a prior (brief) shutdown, the last Congress had agreed on spending levels for all departments for 2018-2019. Some of the appropriations bills were passed by both houses of Congress; these departments are not affected by the shutdown. The remaining bills followed the previously agreed upon funding levels, but were not voted on in time to go into effect before the shutdown began. Although the House in the new Congress has now passed the same appropriations bills that the Senate in the prior session had previously passed, Republican Majority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell will not hold new votes on these bills to re-open the government because the president doesn’t approve, citing lack of $5 billion for a wall on part of the southern border.

It is, however, Congress’s Constitutional duty to control government spending. Therefore, I think that the Senate should pass these bills so the government can re-open – and because it is their duty to fund the government. Then, the ball will be in DT’s court. He can sign the bills and everyone can get back to their jobs serving the public. He can veto the bills, which would return them to Congress for a vote to over-ride, which might be possible as the pressure builds on Republican members of Congress to restore government services. The third option is that the president refuses to sign the bills without vetoing them, which would mean that they take effect in ten days.

The government needs to be about its business of serving the people. The human toll is already mounting and will continue to mount if government is not fully open soon. Many current government workers may be forced to take other jobs to support themselves and their families, which would be crippling to the functions of the affected departments when they do re-open.

Of course, this is not happening in a vacuum. Over the past couple of weeks, in court filings, testimony, interviews, and investigative reporting, there have been ever more alarming stories about the administration’s relationship with Russia and with NATO and sad and disturbing stories from the Middle East. It seems that the White House is overwhelmed with its responsibilities and incapable of dealing effectively with either domestic or foreign affairs.

The United States government has weathered a lot of storms. I’m hoping and praying we come through this one, too.
*****
Join us for Just Jot It January! Today’s pingback link is here:  https://lindaghill.com/2019/01/17/jusjojan-2019-daily-prompt-jan-17th/
More information and prompts here: https://lindaghill.com/2018/12/31/what-is-just-jot-it-january-2019-rules/

 

Advertisements

New Year’s Eve

Today is the last day of 2018. Both 2017 and 2018 have been challenging years for me and 2019 is likely to continue that trend.

I do retain some hope that 2019 will be a better year for the United States with more shared responsibility in Washington. Perhaps there will be some consensus building and more attention to the common good.

We can hope.

Best wishes to you all for 2019!

Holy Innocents

On December 28th, the Catholic Church commemorates the Holy Innocents, the very young children who were killed by order of King Herod in an attempt to eliminate the threat posed by the birth of Jesus.

Today in the United States, I am mourning the death of two children who fled here with a parent, seeking safety and protection, but who died while detained by Customs and Border Protection.

The government is trying to blame the parents for bringing their children here, but these people were living in desperation and danger in Guatemala. They would not have risked coming to the United States if there had been any safe option in their home country. International and domestic law, as well as human decency, call on us to protect the vulnerable; the current administration has failed miserably and, when challenged in court and among the citizenry, has said that it will fix things, but then declared a new policy that violates those same laws in a slightly different way. (And for those who are grumbling that those seeking asylum need to enter the country through legal ports of entry, both US and international law recognize the right to ask for asylum without regard to means of entry. Also, the current administration has made it nearly impossible to enter through the legal ports of entry, which further endangers the already vulnerable.)

I am also remembering the many thousands of children and teens who have been separated from their families and placed in custody. While I am grateful that some have been reunited with family, others are still in detention. All of these children and young people will have life-long scars from the trauma of separation, sometimes without even having access to someone who speaks their language. Somehow, the US government assumes that all Central and South Americans speak Spanish, but many of the current asylum speakers come from remote areas where they speak an indigenous language, not Spanish. Imagine how terrifying it is to be separated from your family in a strange place where you can’t understand anything that is said to you.

I am grateful for the many volunteers who have come forward to help the migrants, offering material and legal aid, and for the millions who give to organizations that are helping to support these people and battle in court on their behalf.

There are also many people and organizations trying to get legal solutions in place. Several years ago, the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill; although the House would likely have passed it as well, the Republican leadership would not put it up for a vote. Perhaps, with Democrats set to take over the majority in the House in January, there can be comprehensive immigration reform passed by both houses of Congress. Admittedly, it might have to pass by large margins, in case the president vetoes it, but I’m hoping that at least some reforms can be put in place.

The current situation must be resolved in a caring and positive way. I pray for strength, wisdom, and perseverance in this struggle for human dignity and decency.

 

this week in the US

I have expressed unease over the way things are going with the United States government, especially the executive branch, over these past two years.

The news of court cases and filings, some related to the Mueller investigation and some not, firings/resignations, and policy changes on both foreign and domestic matters have been particularly intense over the last few weeks.

Still, I wasn’t prepared for the torrent of news this week, especially the sudden announcement of the withdrawal from Syria and the subsequent resignation of Secretary of Defense Mattis.

And the week isn’t over yet.

It’s likely that there will be a partial government shutdown. It’s possible that, with the president being so unpredictable, some other countries might take provocative actions, thinking the US is too preoccupied to respond.

I’m really scared.

Four generation Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving four generations
a post-dinner four generation photo of me, Nana, daughter E, and granddaughter ABC

Today is Thanksgiving Day in the United States. We were able to bring Nana from the skilled nursing unit over to the dining room in the Village Center for Thanksgiving dinner, which was delicious.

For years, Nana had been the unofficial goodwill ambassador of the retirement community. She used to make the rounds of the tables after dinner, visiting with everyone and catching up on them and their families. After she went into hospice care in early summer 2017, she wasn’t able to be out and about. Now that she has been decertified by hospice and has done some rehab, she was strong enough to come over for an hour using a wheelchair outfitted with portable oxygen.

A number of people stopped by the table to say hello. There was lots of good food, conversation, and warmth, all of which counteracted the blustery day outside.

Last year at this time, I hadn’t thought it possible that we would have the privilege of another Thanksgiving with Nana and Paco. I am so grateful that we had this day together.

Armistice Day

Today is the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended what was known then as the Great War. The carnage had been so great with several countries losing the majority of their young men that it was thought that this war would be “the war to end all wars.”

Sadly, that armistice did not end wars. The ensuing decades have seen an even larger world war, the development of more types of weapons, many regional wars that have been ideological proxy wars, genocides of various groups, and, increasingly, the torture, starvation, bombing, wounding, and death of non-combatants.

If we truly wish to honor those who have served in the military, we should reflect on what armistice means, what it means to cease hostilities, and what it means to be at peace. Instead of spending so much on expensive weaponry, we could spend more on fighting poverty, disease, and environmental degradation.

This afternoon at my parents’ senior community, there will be a gathering of veterans who live there. A few, like my dad, are veterans of World War II. Others, also like my dad, served in Korea. There are Vietnam War era veterans and those who served during peacetime. They will share coffee and cake and conversation.

I doubt any of them want more war.

They want their grandchildren and great-grandchildren to live in peace.

Remind me which way is forward?

The whirlwind that was October has blown into November. At the moment, it has brought some messy mixed precipitation with wet snow starting to accumulate on the grass and the cars, but “messy and mixed” describes a lot of the situations I find myself in of late.

We have been continuing to try to settle Nana and Paco into new routines with Nana in the Health Canter and Paco in his apartment, but things tend to shift day to day. I have been trying to untangle all the required paperwork and meetings, but some things are still in process.

Meanwhile, even though I haven’t been able to follow the news as closely as I usually do, I feel the weight and disquiet of the terrible events around the United States with shootings, pipe bombs, fires, and vitriol swirling around us. I had hoped the election would settle things down a bit. While I am grateful not to be inundated with political ads, the level of uncertainty, especially in national politics, is daunting. Mueller’s team went quiet for several weeks before the election due to Justice Department protocol, but now there is a wide-spread expectation that new charges may be announced, although with Attorney General Sessions having been fired, it is hard to know what will happen next and when/if a final report will be made public.

It seems we are in for more “mixed and messy” times…