, Gloucester, MA

October 3, 2013

Opinion: Contrived 'shutdown' nothing more than an insult to us all

Gloucester Daily Times

---- — Regardless of how one feels about political motives behind the federal budget standoff, some aspects of the government “shutdown” are plainly ludicrous.

How else would one describe the shutdown-mandated closure of the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge on nearby Plum Island? Do people really require federal supervision to observe birds among the dunes and stroll along the beach?

Apparently so. Visitors to the refuge this week have found the gates closed and locked. Clearly, the closure was not necessary to prevent people from creating havoc within the refuge — law enforcement patrols were still on duty.

But to access Sandy Point, visitors must travel down a six-mile road through the federal refuge. The refuge closure meant that access to the state park, which has about 50 parking spaces, was also closed.

Similar foolishness was on display throughout the nation as national parks and monuments were all closed. Americans, apparently, cannot be trusted to look at turning leaves, mountain vistas or war memorials without the protective hand of Uncle Sam firmly on their shoulders.

To whom, after all, do these natural and man-made wonders belong — the government or the people?

In Washington, some would have none of this nonsense. A group of veterans of the generation that stormed the beaches of Normandy was reduced to storming the gates of the monument erected in their honor.

The veterans, some in wheelchairs, had come from Mississippi to visit the World War II memorial. They arrived at the National Mall to barricades fitted with signs announcing that the memorial was closed due to the government shutdown. The Nazis couldn’t keep these men out of France. A few signs weren’t going to keep them from honoring their comrades in arms. They went in anyway — and good for them. Why, after all, is federal oversight needed for a group of veterans to visit some granite monuments set in a city park?

A true federal shutdown – if ever one were needed — could have especially profound effects right here on Cape Ann. A budget-driven closure at the offices of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and/or at Coast Guard Station Gloucester, for example, would significantly impact public safety and the local economy through its temporary loss of jobs.

Yet, as noted in Tuesday’s Times story, 45 percent of NOAA employees are considered exempt from any real or potential furlough declarations, and NOAA enforcement personnel are still on the job — as is the Coast Guard, which is part of our Homeland Security Department.

Let’s face it: Despite the posturing, wailing and fiscal gnashing of teeth, this “shutdown” to date is little more than a contrived political ploy. And while we understand that the federal government does a great many things that are necessary to the safety, security and welfare of the nation, locking the gates of a wildlife sanctuary is not among them.

Americans might be somewhat more sympathetic and less cynical toward government if its operatives did not so consistently treat the people like idiots.

The impact of this supposedly dire shutdown to date isn’t threatening anything. It is, in fact, insulting to us all.