Following a long-running partisan disagreement over the Affordable Healthcare Act, on Oct. 1, legislators in Washington decided to finally just do the reasonable, mature thing: They shut down the federal government.
Since then, the shutdown has caused national parks to close, at-risk children to lose early education resources, hundreds of thousands of government employees to stop receiving their paychecks and other American citizens to lose tax-payer funded federal benefits.
Thankfully, even as bickering politicians stretch out their squabble into the second week, a few inspiring patriots are restoring everyone else’s faith in America.
Chris Cox, the One-Man “Memorial Militia”
Just because the national monuments are closed during the government shutdown, doesn’t mean the symbols of our country’s history should get overgrown.
Knowing that the Million Vet March was headed to D.C., Chris Cox took it upon himself to ensure the grounds looked “presentable” for our nation’s heroes. He drove from his home in South Carolina to the capital with only a chainsaw and push-mower to do what our tax dollars couldn’t: Clean up Washington.
He told a local radio station, “If they shut down our memorials, we’re still going to take the trash out, we’re going to clean the windows, we’re going to cut the grass, we’re going to pull the weeds, we’re going to do the tree work.”
Of course, the Park Police couldn’t just have citizens volunteering their own time and energy to improve the land that belongs to everyone, so they eventually shut him down, too. But it wasn’t before the one-man cleaning crew sent his message loud and clear—it’s time to get Washington in order.
Starbucks CEO Howard Shultz
The CEO of America’s most popular coffee shop posted a letter on the company’s website this week, telling customers that Starbucks will give a free cup of coffee to anyone who buys a drink for someone else. Because if Congress can’t remember how Americans treat each other, we’ll just have to give them a reminder.
He explained the Come Together campaign (which ends on Friday, Oct. 11) as a way to “[support] one another during a particularly challenging time.” Giving away free coffee to encourage citizens to pay-it-forward when it comes to acts of kindness may seem like a small gesture, but as Shultz explained, “Together, we can continue to make a difference-one cup, one customer, one act of civility and kindness at a time.” Now it’s your turn, Congress.
These WWII Veterans
If you think that a few barricades and no trespassing signs are going to prevent these vets from visiting the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., than you are sadly mistaken. Shutdown or no shutdown, these national heroes aren’t in the business of letting obstacles stand in their way.
When busloads of WWII heroes showed up at the memorial on the same day government officials closed it down due to the shutdown, they did what they’ve done before: They showed Americans how the Greatest Generation overcomes obstacles, literally. The vets—some of whom were in wheel chairs—physically moved and knocked over the barriers, and led others into the blocked off memorial plaza.
The same heroes that helped take down Hitler’s forces aren’t going to let some stubborn politicians prevent them from doing anything—especially stop them from paying tribute to their fallen brethren. Lesson learned for the Federal Government: These colors don’t run.
This Cone-Throwing, Modern Day Samuel Adams
To whoever placed these orange traffic cones, blocking the entrance to South Dakota’s Bad Lands National Park, this vacationer has a message for you: Don’t tread on me.
Summoning the road-tripping passion of Clark Griswold and the courage of the tea dumping Samuel Adams, this site-seeing American has refused to a let a shutdown prevent his family from enjoying our nation’s majesty. Hey Washington, here’s what we think of your shutdown.
Billionaire Couple John and Laura Arnold
When John and Laura Arnold found out that 7,200 children from low-income families had already missed school because the shutdown stopped funds to the National Head Start Association, they decided to do something. This week, the family gave $10 million of their own money as emergency funding to make sure the kindergarteners got the assistance they need while lawmakers get their act together.
In a statement, John Arnold said, “We sincerely hope that our government gets back to work in short order, as private dollars cannot in the long term replace government commitments.”
Marathon Runner John Bell
Imagine you’re a marathon runner training on a set of local trails that are not blocked off by any barriers and contain no signs indicating that they are closed. When you finish your run, you find officers waiting by your vehicle to issue you a $100 fine because, you guessed it, the park was closed due to the government shutdown. What do you do?
Well if your name is John Bell of Pennsylvania, you lawyer up, fight the ticket in court and organize a protest run. Bell told Runner’s World, “I thought ‘this isn’t right.’ They shouldn’t restrict people from exercising and trying to stay healthy in a public park.”
Ironically, that very week, Congress deemed their tax-payer funded personal gym “essential” so that they could still workout during the shutdown. (Though, we should note, the “staff” gym—for employees of our elected officials, was closed.) Congress can keep their fancy gyms, but as John Bell is reminding everyone else, from the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters, this land was made for you and me.
This Heartbroken Kid Locked Out of the Zoo
Time magazine’s Alex Fitzpatrick came across this picture on Reddit of a heartbroken little kid in a teddy bear suit looking past the gates of a locked national zoo.
We don’t know who you are little guy, but your gaze of disenchantment, disappointment and disenfranchisement summarizes how we all feel about our elected officials right now. But even though we are all as bummed out as you are that our government is broken, we (like you), stand looking through the locked gates of public office, hopeful about a better tomorrow; a day when every American can put on their teddy bear suit and go to the zoo … OK, so the analogy starts to break down a little, but you get the idea. Stay strong teddy bear kid—those gates will open again. One day.
Jesse Carey is a mainstay on the weekly RELEVANT Podcast and member of RELEVANT's executive board. He lives in Virginia Beach with his wife and two kids.