After gallivanting the District for a few hours (and spending a mere $28 — a bargain by any metropolitan standard), I came back home to a sleepy puppy.
And I reminded myself why I’m doing this, i.e., chronicling my first day as a furloughed federal worker.
Full disclosure: I’m an immigrant. I was born and raised overseas and a decade ago became a naturalized U.S. citizen. When I was growing up, I bought the promise of the “American Dream” hook, line, and sinker. Even though I was yet to be one at the time, I grew up wanting to be nothing else but American.
When I stood in that courtroom 10 years ago with a crowd as diverse as all get out — men and women of every skin color who wore every conceivable attire and who likely gave up much more than I did to pursue the American Dream — we promised:
I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.
So I may be taking this government shutdown business more seriously than others. I left my former home country behind, and did so willingly, so I could be part of the greatest democratic experiment in the world — as a public servant, no less.
I’m a believer in American Exceptionalism. I think we have a unique governance structure that makes sense for the kind of paradoxical “rugged individual who needs the help of a village” kind of people that we are.
But what’s going on right now isn’t democracy. It’s anarchy. And it’s being perpetuated by a handful of people who don’t seem to grasp the basic tenets of democracy. And it’s being perpetuated as others stand idly by while lie after lie — not even slight fibs, but actual non-facts — is used to justify those people’s actions.
And it pains me. I know democracy is messy. I know that what makes this grand experiment work is every citizen rolling up his or her sleeves and having honest conversations that lead to well-reasoned compromise.
But what we’re experiencing is a tantrum, at a national scale, by people who were rightfully elected but who have shown that they cannot govern.
I think back to my wide-eyed optimism in 2003 as I raised my right hand and took that oath. I took it to heart.
I ask my 2013 self how he feels about America, and at this moment in time, all he feels is disappointment.