3 October 2013
Today marks the third day of the United States government being shut down for the most ridiculous reason. The cover story of this morning’s San Francisco Chronicle, “Feeling the Pinch in the Bay Area” does not mention the impact on organizations like Luna–arts organizations awaiting disbursement on grants from the National Endowment for the Arts or nonprofit education organizations waiting for payments on contracts with the Department of Education in order to make payroll. Yet, managing cash flow is a relatively minor worry to my concern over the children with whom we work.
How does a parent explain to a child that the entire nation’s government is shutting down because a few men (and one woman) are mad that they didn’t get their way on a particular health care bill? The bill passed and they fought it all the way to the Supreme Court—democracy in action. The Supreme Court allowed the Affordable Care Act to continue and those men are still mad so they are holding the country hostage—shutting everything down because they still want to get their way. Many things about this are troubling, but two things are particularly hard on children. The first is that children have a desire to understand fairness. It is part of a developmental process that raises healthy, humane citizens. They also need boundaries. How can children accept limits and learn to adapt when the role models provided them don’t? How can they understand that holding their breath until they turn blue, or destroying a toy so that another child can’t play with it is an inappropriate response when those working at the highest level of government are doing something similar? Secondly, children need security, they need to know that people will be there for them until they are grown-up and can take care of themselves. The insecurity caused by a government shutdown, obsessively portrayed second-by-second in the media affects everyone. Imagine, then, the impact on children living in families already stressed by unemployment, the mortgage crisis and poverty.