, Newburyport, MA

October 11, 2013

Government shutdown punishing the innocent

Bill Plante's North Shore
Newburyport Daily News

---- — Despite what has to be the most beautiful of months so far this year, there is a sourness among the states we call united.

Except for local distractions, it presses upon us from our nation’s Capitol, but temporary escape is possible.

We seized such a moment in Amesbury on Sunday past by taking advantage of the launching of a whaleboat and to cheer a new age for Lowell’s Boat Shop.

How different an experience that was from what others were facing in national parks across the nation where those employed by federal government were meeting face to face with ordinary citizens.

From coast to coast and from border to border, they are obeying orders from on high to block entrance to federal parks.

There have been some exceptions — allowing war veterans to visit what has become almost sacred ground in Washington for one.

That was permitted only after former servicemen, some in wheelchairs, just kept on coming.

But not being able to visit places like Plum Island’s bird sanctuary because of political outfall?

We send representatives down to Washington to protect our values.

It is called representative government, dearly sought, painfully won and sporadically responsive to agendas of those with competing political philosophies.

In Congress, however, stubborn individualism doesn’t get you very far.

There are two overriding contesting voices.

The one would keep federal involvement in our lives at a level considerably less intrusive than would the other.

That other, however, has succeeded over the long reach of history to expand federal presence far beyond the vision of our nation’s founders.

It has had its stumbles along the way, but it was born of great necessity during the years prior to our Second World War and with fits and starts it has brought us to where we are today.

“Ah-ha!” someone from both sides is saying.


There have been times when Democrats were in power, and times when Republicans were. Both have ruled in good times and bad.

There have been times, however difficult it may be to recall them, when both sides have found ways to get along for the common good.

This is not such a time because we are in a turning point internationally, and our economy appears to be struggling back from its stubborn depths.

Our armed services are still entangled with wars, but we are tired of it.

Our middle class has been in sharp decline for several years.

The rich get richer and there are considerably more of them.

The poor get poorer because costs keep rising, but there are avenues for government relief in place for them.

Not so for the middle class that’s hurting. Its members are legion, it’s growing, and it will be heard.

Rarely, however, has there been this degree of difference as to what needs be done and how — hence the bitterness accompanying the stalemate that has effectively closed much of government down.

Central to the division is what is broadly called Obamacare.

There should be no surprise. Nowhere is there an understanding by the general population of what it is going to mean for them.

Politically, it fits as a battleground.

As for the extreme right wing, it is more of a burden to Republicans than to anyone else because there is Abraham Lincoln’s truism that division cannot be avoided.

“A house divided against itself cannot stand,” he said in part of the Gettysburg Address.

In its present context, Democrats are counting on it, but Republicans can read as well.

But to close all federal parks down is to punish the innocent for the failures of those we sent to govern us may have been unintended, but it has all the smell of political overreach.


Bill Plante is a Newbury resident and staff columnist. His e-mail address is