Welcome to America – sorry we’re closed

Washington DC, October 16th. 24 hours to default

The Founding Fathers must be spinning in their graves. Lincoln is probably shaking his head with an awful sense of deja vu.
America is in a mess.
Earlier this year the country marked the sesquicentennial (150th anniversary) of Gettysburg. The Civil War battle was the biggest ever fought on American soil. It was the awful embodiment of a country at war with itself.
Lincoln had famously warned politicians, “A house divided against itself cannot stand”. All these years later his words must echo hauntingly around Washington DC’s Capitol building.
The federal government is in shutdown. Division is again the order of the day. Politics and politicians ideologically at odds with each other. In the most powerful country in the world non-essential government employees have been temporarily laid off, furloughed as they say here. Institutions, museums, parks, landmarks, all shut; medical laboratories unable to get their work approved. The list goes on and on.

The Lincoln Memorial - the man himself is off-limits

The Lincoln Memorial – the man himself is off-limits

The Lincoln Memorial is one of the finest monuments in the world. A triumphant tribute to a great American. To describe the memorial to you is beyond me. Actually, to be more precise, it’s beyond a fence. On it is a sign: “Because of the federal government shutdown all national parks are closed.”
That sign, or at least a variation of it, has been keeping me company down the North East coast of America. In New York the Statute of Liberty was closed. Next, Philadelphia’s Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell were off-limits to me. Now I’m in Washington. The national monuments and the Smithsonian museums are all closed. Visitors from all over the world gawk at the landmarks from behind the barricades.

Everywhere I’ve been the angriest tourists are the Americans themselves, embarrassed and unhappy at the farce.
At the World War Two memorial veterans and families today brushed aside the fences. They’re in no mood to be told they can’t pay their respects to those who died while wearing the uniform of the United States.
Putting the politics aside, what upsets many people is the absurdity that closes some facilities. Tim tells me of a dog park in the middle of Philadelphia which is closed down. “It’s really tiny. Get a couple of dogs in there and it’s full. No rangers ever go there but because it’s federal property the gate is locked and entry is impossible.”

Philadelphia's Liberty Bell - picture shot through a window

Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell – picture shot through a window

Wealthy private citizens have stepped in to fund veterans groups who provide crucial services. Mount Rushmore is reopening courtesy of money from corporations. Ford’s Theatre, where Lincoln was assassinated, is about to reopen thanks to a private donor. The Grand Canyon will be temporarily funded by the state government to try to bring the tourists back.

Meanwhile, here in Washington, we sit and wait. To be honest, life for most people is continuing as normal. As a tourist there’s plenty to see and do. But the reality is that America might, just might, be about to tip itself over the edge.
Foreign governments and financial institutions warn that shutdown could become financial meltdown if the debt ceiling is not raised on Thursday. America’s credit rating is in danger and it will start to default on its worldwide debts.
If you or I default on our mortgages our home can be repossessed. I wonder if that will happen to the USA. Perhaps it will be divvied up between China, its biggest creditor, and Britain its former owner/occupier. The “shutdown” signs at the Lincoln Memorial are bad enough. Imagine if they have to be rewritten in the language of the new owners, “由于联邦政府关闭所有国家公园被关闭”
Absurd I know. But no more ridiculous than the world’s only superpower laying off its own public servants because it can’t agree a budget.

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Categories: Uncategorized, USA, Washington DC | Tags: , , , | 14 Comments

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14 thoughts on “Welcome to America – sorry we’re closed

  1. Arthur,
    How can we get in touch? What is your direct email?
    Dana
    Ps. Bobby and I stayed a night at the Shangri-La. Now we are on Koh Samet, a quiet island in the Gulf of Thailand.
    We return to reality on Saturday. I miss my family in a healthy way.
    Please be in touch!

  2. alan

    Alan& Poy
    Sum num na America

    • Looking at all the tv coverage here there is a feeling the politicians might not have learned the lesson and we could be back at the same point in a few months.
      Let’s hope not.

  3. Andy

    One post from you and just heard that the senate have settled. Well done, you must have some influence.

    • Influence or they got fed up with my unhappy face at all the barricades?

      Tomorrow morning I will be up bright and early ready for a full day at all the monuments and museums. I am expecting big queues.

  4. Brian

    They just knew you were coming didn’t they…… anything to keep a nosey BBC journo locked outside. Seriously though – its a pity everything is shut as Washington is probably one of the best places to visit in the US. Keep us posted Arfur

    • Hi stranger, great to hear from you.
      Yep, it’s bad timing being here now. I have been before but never had the chance to play the proper tourist. I had been really looking forward to it.

  5. Satomi

    Shame you missed so many famous tourist spots…but well done on your Chinese writing, I’m impressed! Xx

  6. Even sillier, I tried to get onto the NASA website, to settle an argument about how astronauts are trained… and that was “closed” too !!

    • Silly is about right. Are there any American astronauts at the space station at the moment? If so isn’t most of that federal property? Shutdown in space would be no fun.

  7. Roger

    Before you fly back to the UK could you please turn out the lights. Don’t worry about putting the milk bottles out as there will be no deliveries.

    • It’s good advice but I’m not sure the lights are even on. Certainly seems gloomy waking up here this morning and watching the tv coverage of “still no deal.” The milk has definitely turned a little sour already.

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