According to bumper stickers and political stump speeches, the answer is EVERYONE.
After all, even our disgracefully bumbling legislators moved quickly to ensure members of the active duty military continue to receive paychecks during the current government shutdown.
But as time passes, it is becoming obvious that the government shutdown has unintended consequences (shocker!). Bit by bit, the media is reporting heart-wrenching stories of Americans hurt by the lack of government services. What if a hurricane hits the Gulf Coast and FEMA isn’t there to help? What about the many sick patients being denied participation in clinical trials that represent their last hope for survival?
The mother lode of media sympathy rained down this morning on another group of Americans impacted by the shutdown: families of active duty troops who are killed in action.
Perhaps some members of congress have forgotten that we are at war – after all, they consume the same media as the rest of us and embedded reporters in Kabul aren’t exactly headlining the evening news. So they might have missed hearing that on Sunday – 2 days ago – four US soldiers were killed in Afghanistan.
After such a weekend, care to guess what the lead stories were on Monday morning’s Today show?
- A 9-yr-old boy in Minneapolis slipped by the TSA and a gate agent to board a flight to Las Vegas without a ticket
- The Olympic torch went out and was re-lit by a stranger in the crowd
- Miley Cyrus was “raunchy but hilarious” when she hosted Saturday Night Live
There were many other stories (the upcoming debt ceiling deadline, the capture of an Al Qaeda leader, the new Supreme Court term), but NOTHING about the war or the soldiers who died fighting it.
Those soldiers made the news today because the government shutdown not only prevents their families from receiving death benefit payments (what an oxymoron – “death benefits”), but also keeps the families from traveling to Dover Air Force Base to pay their respects to the returning flag-draped coffins.
So that’s how the media dishes up this particular report from the front – selfless patriotism at its best, with a side of political BS. At least we’re hearing about it. These combat fatalities would have never made the news if not for the shutdown. Politicians will pay attention to them for a nanosecond, each spinning last weekend’s violence to support the position of his or her party. My fellow Americans: take cover from the sound-bite shrapnel.
One party will surely demand that the other pass a special spending bill to pay for the death benefits that have now come due, and the other party will in turn demand a comprehensive funding bill that never should have been withheld in the first place. And on and on we go.
I’m heartbroken for the servicemen and woman who lost their lives this weekend, and for those who have been killed or injured in the 13 years (!) since the war in Afghanistan began. The behavior of our political leaders is like salt in the wounds of this war: at best, they are forgetful and distracted; at worst, willfully negligent.
Meanwhile, the stalemate continues and our government supports no one. Not me, not you, and not the troops.
On the plus side, Miley Cyrus is finally out of the news cycle. For now.