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Shutdown in the City: An Ugly Sight

shutdown

“There have always been periods of crisis in Washington, but earlier in this century people of the capital could endure sweaty excitement that gripped the city for days because they knew these things had a way of subsiding. District of Columbia inhabitants, for example, could count on October…

…In short, this was once an uncomplicated and peaceful part of the year for Washington. But no more. No such seasons exist. Surcease and relaxation have departed the banks of the Potomac for what may be an indeterminable period.”

Merriman Smith, The Good New Days, 1963

October 1, 2013, Washington, DC: I hadn’t thought much about what a government shutdown would look like until I rode my bike home today through the heart of the city. It looks like men and women in suits were wiped off the face of the planet. It looks like it can’t possibly 80 degrees and sunny because kayaks and crew teams aren’t crowding the Potomac. It looks like a little less traffic and a bit more alcohol is flowing through the city at 4:30 pm on a Tuesday afternoon. It looks like live shots are ready to roll for the evening news and it looks like local business owners atop Capitol Hill have declared on their chalkboards that they’ve had it with our dysfunctional neighbor.

I’d like to believe that the Washington you disdain has little relation to the Washington where I live, but that’s simply not true. Today on day one of the first government shutdown in 17 years, nearly half of every couple I know here is out of work, their daycares are shuttered, and high school athletes aren’t heading to practice after school because their rowing shells are sitting on federal land. In one short day, the consequences of Congress’ ineptitude have infiltrated our city, some surfacing as minor blips and others erupting as massive problems. Federal Washington has local Washington in a chokehold.

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