Mark Hammer

There is every reason to be outraged, and especially for public servants to be outraged, by the manner in which things have come to this particular standoff. I am one of those that believes governments, and their representatives, have not only a legislative and service-provision function, but an example-setting function as well. And in this instance, it is not the best example to be setting. There are reminiscences of confrontations I have seen between parents and children in the checkout line at grocery stores. Much breath-holding and angry reprimanding.

That said, and also accepting that there are and will be economic consequences to the furlough, for individuals and the nation, is it at all possible that there is any sort of silver, or nice-to-look-at-when-its-all-polished, other metallic lining to the current stalemate?

Here I am reminded of Paul Light’s observation that, in the wake of the Twin Towers tragedy, whose 12th anniversary we recently observed, public support for, and interest in, public servants and the public service, went way up, according to before and after polls. It eventually did return “back to normal”, but for a rather lengthy period, citizens began to see what public servants do as heroic, and important enough that maybe it was something they should consider doing.

Thank goodness there are no horrific tragedies to be addressed at the moment. But one begins to see news reports trickling in of this or that not being open. My wife and I are headed down to Brooklyn this weekend to visit friends, and like so many native New Yorkers, they were going to use the opportunity of having out-of-town guests to finally get around to “seeing the Lady”. But of course, they can’t because Lady Liberty is closed due to the furlough.

It’s not just tourist sites, though. There will be many services that grind to a standstill. Emergencies will be responded to, I’m sure, but the criteria for “an emergency” will be more stringent. And while I don’t wish hardship on anyone, perhaps the furlough will give some a chance to reflect on what it is they get for their taxes. Maybe they can stop their “burtching” ( http://www.burtchandkvetch.com/thisiswhatitsallabout/ ), and realize that “big government” is pretty big because it does a lot, because it takes a lot of people to get some things done, and because there is a lot to do.

I hope for everyone here that the furlough is brief, but if it can’t be brief, at least let us learn and get some good from it.