On Wednesday of this week, I had both the privilege and the misfortune of being a first hand witness to a few of the effects the government shutdown has had on individuals in New York City.
The bottom half of the posted images were taken on the steps of a Native American History museum that was closed do to the shutdown. For about 40 minutes or so I decided to sit on the steps and watch visitors’ reactions to their let down. Amongst the many disappointed faces I caught one woman’s reaction to her friend telling her why the museum was closed on camera. I couldn’t understand what they were saying due to my only english language barrier, but by their body language and the fact that there could really only be one topic they were discussing, I knew what they were saying. The woman gasped, covered her mouth, and then proceeded to walk away.
Though the worst reaction by far was a conversation I overheard between two English women.
“This is closed too?” one woman said.
“Of course,” said the other.
“I don’t understand how a government can just shut down,” the first woman speaking was shaking her head.
“Because this country has no sympathy.”
If that didn’t knock the wind out of me, my next encounter surely did.
The top half of the photos.
On my way back home on the Staten Island Ferry, I got the pleasure of starting a conversation with the three elderly individuals in the photo. Three of the most pleasant people one could hope to meet.
For what reason I’m still not sure of, I decided to ask them a few questions.
Were they visiting? Yes, from California.
How long were they staying? 8 days, they were on day 7 of the trip.
Out of curiosity I asked if they had gotten a chance to see the Statue of Liberty.
One of the woman who was sitting next to me at the time smiled and said, “No. We made the mistake of saving that for last. That’s what we were most excited about.” The other woman in the group giggled and said, “We did a swell job predicting the weather. But no one predicted the government would close.” They than began to tell me that the entire reason they were on the ferry was because it gave them a pretty good view of Lady Liberty. “We’re just grateful for this ferry. Now we at least get to see her.”
There was not one hint of sarcasm or cynicism in her voice. They were truly thankful.
I didn’t make much conversation with them there after, instead I watched and listened to the small chat they were making amongst themselves.
But I was brought to tears when the woman sitting next to me shot up, pointed her finger, and yelled to her husband, “Look! There She is! Isn’t She beautiful?”
These three human beings that have most likely spent their entire lives in this country, paying taxes, voting, being members of this society, felt grateful that they could take an hour long ferry ride (to Staten Island, then back to the city) to get a glimpse of their countries National Monument, because our government decided we were not important enough to take care of. Yet still they stood, first in yells of joy, then in a prideful silence. Smiles as wide as their cheeks would allow.
I looked around the ferry, and suddenly realized majority of the passengers were on the ferry ride for the exact same reason.
And in that moment I was drenched in both pride and disgrace.