A Military Wife’s Perspective on the Shutdown

I woke up very early with a massive migraine.  My migraines can be extremely disruptive, and usually they limit my activities drastically for at least a day or two.  But this morning, I jumped out of bed to check the news with all the hopefulness of a kid praying for a snow day.  Is it over?  Did they fix it?  Oh.  They aren’t voting until this afternoon.  And so I waited, hoping for the best.

Once the kids were dropped off at school, I folded a huge ice pack over my forehead and took a much needed nap.  I woke up famished and fixed breakfast from leftovers found in the kitchen.  While nibbling toast, I inventoried the pantry and refrigerator again; both are emptier than they have been since before Thanksgiving.  This is actually not because of the shutdown, but an indicator that since the holidays, I have failed to sufficiently restock our family food supply.  If we have to go without a paycheck, this will very quickly become a serious problem!  While finalizing my grocery list, I considered several thoughts. Do our lawmakers understand what they have demanded of us, have they ever made such sacrifices as we have, have they ever experienced such trepidation while facing a perpetually uncertain future?

My shopping trip was interrupted by a phone call from the school.  My youngest felt ill and wanted to come home.  Once I had her bundled up in bed, I checked my phone’s news feed for progress from the Capital.  Headlines boasted that the shutdown has come to an end, and tomorrow it will be back to business as usual.  I didn’t feel elated or even slightly relieved.  Instead, I felt paranoid.  Social media didn’t offer any consolation, as the shutdown now has many Americans ensnared in heated online arguments over the ethics of withholding military paychecks, and how or even if  there is a correlation to DACA.  Normally a passive bystander during social media melee, today I had difficulty resisting the urge to throw in my two cents, especially when encountering  inflammatory comments directed at the military community.

Soldiers expressing concern about possibly not being paid, while on dangerous deployments no less, were blasted by angry strangers for their failure to demonstrate selfless service (which, by the way, is one of the Army Core Values), military spouses sharing their stories were criticized for not being sensitive enough to include the larger audience (which was apparently everyone in the entire damn world) , and were even accused of presenting their children as tragic victims in an effort to yank the spotlight away from Dreamers.  Ugh.  When did people become so hypocritical and hypercritical, not to mention so completely intolerant of any point of view that deviates even slightly from their own? I threw my fist in a couple of times, landed some solid hits, and made some valid points, but by the time I walked away from the computer, my only thought was it doesn’t matter, and it probably never did.  Everything is out of control for a reason.

As the day winds down, I am avoiding Facebook and instead thinking about what happens next.  I’m tired.  My head is throbbing and I’m not entirely certain that I’m seeing out of both eyes (yay, migraines!).  I spent a lot of time on my damage control strategy over the weekend, and while I woke up confident enough today to handle the shit storm, now I’m disappointed that I had to plan for a shit storm in the first place.  The shit storm is apparently not going to hit, but now I’m paranoid that my future is even more precarious than ever.  Should I feel grateful or angry? If the shutdown is really over, will things go back to the version of “normal” to which my family has become accustomed in our years of service? Maybe our “normal” actually isn’t healthy.  Maybe the promises made to us mean nothing.  Maybe this is a sign that it’s time to break away.

On a personal note, my family doesn’t serve this country because of the great pay and benefits, or for the adoration of peers, or to feel superior and worthy of special treatment.  We do it out of a sense of deep respect and love for this country and for our fellow Americans.  We do it because we believe in the Army Core Values: Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage.  We do it because we love America.

Sadly over the years, more often than not, we have seen that our leaders, and in some cases our fellow American citizens, view us as nothing more than worker drones and bargaining chips.  Military families are angry, and justifiably so, because at some point America stopped seeing us as valuable citizens, stopped seeing us altogether.   The real issue at the heart of our angst over the government shutdown is trust.  No, we didn’t technically suffer, our leaders pulled through and we weren’t left to our own devices after all.  Everything worked out.  We will continue to remind ourselves that we should be grateful, but we won’t forget that our leaders exploited us and broke our trust.  Twice now in five years.  When trust is gone, gratitude can’t be won.

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