This first appeared in the Platte County Landmark on October 17, 2013.
Having kids is great. At least I think so, because you get to teach them stuff. And it doesn’t even have to be 100% correct as long as you get most of it right. It’s likely stuff they’ll forget anyway, like when Christopher Columbus found America, which happened to be right where the Native Americans left it. Or how a bill becomes a law. Or how they make the television programming schedules. Really important stuff.
The other cool thing about having kids is that they can ask questions themselves. Really good questions. Like this one I got from my son on Saturday. “Dad, why is the government shut down?”
Um… So we got out his laptop and read a few articles. Those articles referenced the friction between the two party system and the Republicans intention to defund Obamacare and the Health Care Affordability Act. And after a good 20 minutes of reading and talking and discussing, we simply couldn’t explain it, either.
And then it dawned on me. Did we even notice? So I took my kid around the house. Here’s our BBQ grill where we made lunch. Did the Government shutdown affect it? Nope. Here’s Mommy doing laundry. Any impact there? Nope. Here’s our groceries that I bought this morning, without the help of the government.
Oh sure, there are services that the government provides, like funding to repair the roads I drove on to the grocery store and subsidies to make sure there wasn’t a riot at the Hy-Vee. But I couldn’t think of a single day-to-day item of ours that is affected by the government shutdown.
Sure, monuments are closed, and a good deal of people are laid off, which affects the economy as a whole. But those are as near and dear to me as when Christopher Columbus landed on Plymouth Rock. (Like I said, some of the details are a little fuzzy.)
Then I pulled out a paycheck stub for my son to see. And I also made a circle on a sheet of paper. I started slowly blackening in the percentage of money I give to the government every two weeks until the circle looked like a very open-mouthed Pac-Man. And we just sat there and couldn’t explain what any of that money was for.
I did caveat that and say that a percentage went towards protecting us from other countries, and that’s a good thing because we’d be making our pie charts in Russian or Korean or whatever language Iran speaks.
Then he asked me what Obamacare was and I got a headache and had to eat some ice cream.
The point to this little civics lesson is that I’m probably a horrible American for not knowing how the government shutdown affects me. Or maybe I’m just the kind of American that could care less how long the government is shut down.
And, maybe by the time my son is teaching these fuzzy lessons to his children, he can look back on how the government has changed for the better, since it was shut down for the Fall of 2013.