Our Country Deserves Better

Last week, I wrote a post titled I Don’t Know about my dissatisfaction with members of Congress using the threat of a government shutdown as a negotiation tool. With the shutdown looming tonight at 11:59pm, my feelings of exasperation have reached a boiling point. And I am not the only one. My friend, Jill, wrote a post titled Dear Congress. In her post, she references a CNN video, where another military wife voices her frustration. Watch out world – we’re starting to get mad as hell. Our military deserves better. Our federal workers deserve better. And most importantly, our country deserves better.

Those who think the military is overpaid and told me so in the comments of my blog post, Lifestyles of the Rich and Camouflaged, will be be pleased should a shutdown occur because thousands of deployed service members will continue their mission without pay; same with stateside military personnel, the FBI, and other government workers considered essential. I will freely admit that I have not read the 2000 page Affordable Care Act (I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that our legislators haven’t read it in it’s entirety either). And I am not going to debate the specifics on this blog. While the Affordable Care Act may be the final push over the edge, the atmosphere in Washington has long contributed to the mess that we’re in today. It seems that gone are the days when across the aisle politics were fueled by respect and compromise  (side note – check out Chris Matthew’s new book, Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked). The current environment is ugly and frankly, an embarrassment to our country.

My disgust with Congress far extends my personal situation. I proudly believe that the United States of America is the best country in the world. I want citizens of our country to continue to prosper and make contributions to our global community that improve the quality of life for all members of the human race. We can do better. Furthermore, the last government shutdown is estimated to have cost our country 1.4 billion dollars. It’s no secret that our economy is on shaky ground and our debt continues to increase. From a pure financial standpoint, the last thing our country needs to do is toss around the idea of a government shutdown as if we’re simply arguing over what to have for dinner.

If the shutdown occurs and my husband reports to duty (without pay, of course) we will make do. Over the course of our experience with the military, some have scratched their heads as to why my husband would choose to serve his country during wartime. I’ve heard, “I don’t know how you do it” countless times. This is our life and we have chosen this path despite the not-so-glamorous aspects. Over the years, I’ve worried about my husband being killed as he deployed in the name of our country but until recently, I’ve never worried about him getting paid by the government for which he proudly serves. As a military wife, the threat of a government shutdown makes me angry. As an American citizen, our current state of political division and lack of mutual respect frustrates me beyond belief. And as a human being, the behavior demonstrated on Capitol Hill causes me to shake my head in disgust. Our country deserves better.

The Simple Little Moments

I was fourteen when I was first exposed to ‘Our Town’ by Thorton Wilder.  The seemingly simple play (that proves to be anything but) was required reading for English class and served as my introduction to the literary world of American playwrights (hello Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller!).  Over fifteen years later, Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire and her residents continue to have a special place in my heart, along with my love of metatheatrical devices on stage and in writing. The message is simple – daily life is precious because it determines our true reality.

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Some of my favorite moments of every day occur within the first 15 – 20 minutes of waking up. Weston wanders into our room and climbs into bed between us for last minute cuddles. Violet is often nursing and our cat and dog always seem to appear at the foot of the bed. It’s an incredibly simple scene but one that rife with everything that fills my heart the most. It’s probably not a beautiful scene to outsiders – our hair isn’t perfect, I have mascara-smudged eyes, ‘Little Einsteins’ is on TV, and our dog is whining to go outside. But I think it is absolutely gorgeous – we squeeze in as much as we can in those fleeting moments before we climb out of the bed to go about our day.

There are days when I wonder if I somehow shorted myself from experiencing an adventurous globe-trotting life. I allow myself to doubt my decision to stay home for the couple of years while our children are young, potentially stunting my career. I think of how there isn’t enough money for our family of four to travel the world right now, instead we’re limited to exploring the United States of America. And I sometimes wonder if I am disappointing those who love me the most or disappointing myself for not living to my fullest potential.

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But you know what? Over the years, I’ve learned that my identity is not derived from great adventures or spectacular experiences (no matter how wonderful they are), but rather my relation to the ins and outs of my everyday life.  Those simple extra moments in bed each morning, the afternoons spent at the park, and the evening walks on the trail behind our house. Our time together. A lot of days it may feel like my story isn’t one worth writing – the monotony can be overwhelming at times. But when looking back, it’s those simple little moments I remember most. That has to account for something, right?

I Don’t Know.

It’s fall! It’s time for pumpkin-everything, the start of the holiday season, and crisp air. It also means that we’re at that time of year again when words such as ‘government shutdown‘ and ‘debt ceiling’ dominate the news and will likely continue to do so until another female pop star dry humps an inanimate object in her underwear. Such is life in our world, nowadays. As a military wife, I am accustomed to answering questions with, “I don’t know” or some variation of the phrase…

How long are you going to be stationed here? I don’t know.

Where are you going next? I have no idea.

When will you hear from him again? I don’t know.

When will he be home? Not sure about that one.

When will he deploy again? Hell if I know.

But one question I never expected to answer that way is when will he be paid next? The rational part of me thinks that all this talk of a shutdown is just chest-puffing and theatrics by our ever-so-competent Congressional representatives. But it is getting quite tiresome having our livelihood (along with millions of others) used as a pawn in a never-ending political game that has no true winner.  An interesting blend of apathy and extremism seems to define our political culture these days. And I left wondering what is going to be the single event that makes all of us moderates channel our inner-Howard Beale and yell, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore.” I don’t know.