Las Vegas Sun

August 18, 2019

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Wall or no wall, this government shutdown is immoral

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi used the right word. That word is immoral.

Now, before the Trump chorus’ heads explode at the mention of the name Pelosi, I would encourage all those who have my email on speed dial (if that is even possible) to focus, instead, on today’s word.

Walls can be immoral as well as moral, so whatever the speaker thinks about the president’s campaign promise and the universally agreed-upon need to secure our country’s borders, that political position pales when pressed up against the sheer immorality of President Donald Trump’s decision to shut down the government of the United States.

The stories of America’s civil servants paying the price for what our elected representatives are not doing — yes, that is the president as well as the members of the legislative branch of government — are rampant and growing across the front pages of our newspapers and our television screens. Neighbors, relatives and friends of friends nationwide are flailing about trying to make ends meet — not unusual in modern America but now the norm for nearly a million employees of the federal government.

And it is getting worse, not better, as the ripple effect is moving through our cities and towns like a wildfire unchecked by anyone on the other side trying to stop the destruction.

A recent story from our neighbor California sums up the immorality of it all. It makes abundantly clear that whatever political differences may exist between the president and Congressional Democrats and others, closing the government is not the answer. If the greatness of America rises and falls on the values we project, then we are headed the wrong way for sure as the White House makes it clear that those who work as public servants are the people who must pay the price when our government doesn’t work. Or doesn’t want to work.

Nicole Lauer is an active member of the East Bay Coast Guard Spouses Club. She is married to an active duty member of the U.S. Coast Guard. She is a veteran of the United States Navy. She is exactly that person to whom our country owes a debt of gratitude.

Instead, because the president shut down the government over a political squabble, Nicole is getting a mountain of debt because her husband and 42,000 other members of the Coast Guard are not getting paid.

Watching the news about the real effects on ordinary people doing the extraordinary work of serving their fellow citizens should make each of us cringe that we are playing a part in allowing this madness to continue. Yes, there is much the people can and should do.

We can feed our fellow citizens, lend or give them money, provide them gasoline for their cars and pay their rent when their bank accounts run dry as paychecks continue to not get deposited. We can also make it clear to our political leadership that making regular people pay the price for our own failure to produce responsible political leadership in this great country is immoral and not worthy of America.

As Nicole was sharing all the incredible acts of kindness her group was committed to in order to help active-duty Coast Guard families, she was asked her opinion regarding the decision to shut down the government over a wall.

Her answer was priceless and right on the mark.

She had earlier discussed the mission of the Coast Guard as part of our country’s defense matrix. When asked about the wall — you know the fence, the steel slats, the beautiful 30-foot-wall from one end of the southern border to the other — she looked into the camera and said it clearly:

“The Coast Guard is the wall.”

If you are talking about protecting our ports, our coastlines and all those points of entry where most of the bad stuff really happens — not over, under or through a wall — it is the Coast Guard that provides that measure of security.

So to not pay them and to put their families at risk while the guardsmen risk all wearing the uniform of the United States is the epitome of immorality. Where is the outrage?

I have a friend who works for Trump in a significant but furloughed position. He is worried that the initiatives his part of the federal government has in the works — which directly affect many thousands of Nevadans — will not get done and the benefits forever lost. Yes, he is just one person who is basically out of work right now. But there are thousands whose lives could be forever changed for the better if he were at his desk. As it is, there could be those same thousands of Nevadans who will miss this opportunity through no fault of their own. An opportunity, I would suggest, that may not come again.

Yes, immoral is a strong word to use in everyday parlance.

But not today. And even though my friend, Trump’s appointee, will not use that word — he stays silent when asked to opine — it is obvious what he is thinking.

What Trump has allowed to happen is wrong. Wrong for America, wrong for its citizens and wrong for the rest of the world to see us at our very worst.

What Trump is doing is not making America great. It is making a great America the symbol of immorality.

How on earth did we get to this place?

Brian Greenspun is editor, publisher and owner of the Sun.