The cherry blossom snow globe arrived last Thursday. Outside it’s the beginnings of what I hope will be a mild winter. But inside its magical sphere, two wands of blossoms flank a petal-strewn footbridge nestled on green earth in an eternal spring, for it can never be winter in the heart as long as there are cherry blossoms in the world or in the imagination.
I like to think of the cherry blossom snow globe as the object equivalent of the last plane out of Saigon. I had purchased it at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. Dec. 27 and had it mailed home as I was going to The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts that evening to see “Miss Saigon” and didn’t want to take a chance that it would break there or on the train back.
So I watched the woman at the register take my address and stamp it. I wondered when I might see it again. I figured that mailing the snow globe might be one of the last things the workers there would do and that I would be one of the last visitors before the full effects of the government shutdown could be felt. As it turned out, I was right and, when they did arrive, just five days after I came home, I opened it with both a delicious sense of anticipation and a certain ruefulness.
In the scheme of things, the snow globe is small potatoes. The garbage at national parks has been piling up — unsightly and unsanitary — although our admirable citizen-volunteers, the so-called “Toilet Paper Angels,” have stepped in to clean up the parks in the absence of furloughed workers. The shutdown is affecting everything from agricultural loans to the courts. But most important, some 800,000 federal workers nationwide, who earn as little as $500 a week, are not being paid. This includes those who are being forced to work without pay. The American Federation of Government Employees is suing the government under the Fair Labor Standards Act, which says the affected employees must be given at least minimum compensation. But when will the courts hear that suit?
Maybe the snow globe isn’t such a small thing. We need beauty in this world. We need escape and nourishment for our souls. The people who went to the National Gallery expecting to find these this past week are being deprived — and for what? For a false narrative of criminals and terrorists overrunning the border so that President Donald J. Trumpet can build a wall and assuage his base while feeding his narcissism and deflecting from the Mueller investigation. (Earth to Donnie Two Scoops: The drug dealers are living in Miami high-rises surrounded by higher priced lawyers. Haven’t you ever seen a rerun of “Miami Vice”?)
Now that the Dems — let’s face it, Speaker Nancy Pelosi — are back, the House has passed two bills to reopen the government, which the Senate will not vote on, because Majority Leader Mitchie McConnell doesn’t want to get burned again by Hair Furor, who told Vice Mike “Mother” Pence to tell Michie that he would sign the previous Senate bill funding the government, then backed out when commentators Ann Coulter and Russ Limbaugh went nuts, saying he had sold out the base. (Honestly, who’s running this show? Seems Fox and the other conservative commentators are the tail wagging the dog.)
Why not give in to the president and put people back to work immediately? Because he’s a vacillating bully, and you always have to stand up to a bully. Give in now and who’s to say he won’t pull a similar stunt next time he decides to huff and puff. I mean, he blows with the wind. First, he says he doesn’t care about about the workers, because they’re Dems. Now Marie “Let them eat (chocolate Mar-A-Lago) cake” Antoinette says he can relate and the workers are with him. How can you negotiate when the truth shifts with the tides?
Still, Pelosi and company need to keep up the pressure to reopen the government while negotiations continue — particularly now that some of the Repubs are running scared, dangling permanent status for the DACA Dreamers in exchange for wall money, a deal they refused in the past. Will the Dems bite? Who knows. The only thing that is certain is that it is absolutely criminal to use these workers as border wall pawns. You can’t hold people hostage to your desires. You can’t build your happiness on the backs of other people’s misery.
Meanwhile, the White House and Congress are fully funded, and Pence and the cabinet just got raises — what a surprise — that they would be wise to forgo.
Let’s just hope, pray — and work — for a solution to this mess, which could stretch on to the actual cherry blossom season.