Commentary: Furloughed federal workers are your neighbors

Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune Internal Revenue Service employees protest the ongoing partial federal shutdown outside the Federal Building in Ogden, Jan. 10, 2019.

We’re your neighbors.

We coach basketball teams this time of year and baseball in summer, walk our dogs and families in our neighborhoods, and work like you, our neighbors, to raise our families as we see fit.

We’re also furloughed federal employees, innocent victims in a long-running fight over the proper role of immigration in the United States. As federal employees we have, as they say, no dog in this fight as employees, but rather are beset by political dogs not under our control.

I acknowledge this is a personal perspective, but President Donald Trump and his Republican Party own this manufactured shutdown. Polls support this perspective, with numbers in 55 percent to 60 percent range blaming Trump and his Republican Party.

As for Trump’s claim that federal employees support his shutdown, a recent poll by Government Executive says 70 percent to 75 percent of us do not. I certainly have not encountered a single federal colleague who supports Trump’s shutdown, nor did I encounter any when I attended the recent furlough rally in Ogden. Most of the furloughed employees there were worried about meeting family financial obligations, not Trump’s fanciful desire for a wall.

Nor do I believe in a Trumpian wall. And if what follows sounds repetitive, it is, for about 55 percent to 60 percent of Americans don’t support the wall either.

In short, there is no national desire for a wall, only a Trump-based, delusional argument for a nonexistent national crisis.

But irrespective of any federal employee’s viewpoint on the wall, it is morally reprehensible that we are either forced to work without pay, or told to simply sit on the sidelines while Trump acts like a petulant child in a schoolyard sandbox building walls of sand.

More reprehensible, in my opinion, is the lack of action by Republican senators and congressmen and -women, who are equally culpable. Here, in our own state, our congressional delegation uses weasel words to maneuver around the shutdown effects. They have abandoned us, their citizens. They should be ashamed of their actions.

I can only conclude that this no longer about the wall per se. Rather, the wall has become a symbol of the nation’s divisiveness. It represents a military expert Carl von Clauswitz’s schwerpunkt, where all semblance of rational, political battle planning regarding the immigration debate is lost and a brutal political slugfest of no quarter asked and none given now defines the political engagement.

Neither side — Republican or Democrat — can afford to give an inch for fear of losing political ground. We should be honest and acknowledge this, that how this plays out might determine whether our children live in some future dystopian Trump universe, or one where we can once again compromise on societal issues.

I’m not hopeful, even though I know solutions exist. I want to believe solutions exist. But their implementation will require a word that has, regrettably, taken on negative connotations in recent years: compromise. Recognition that both sides of the immigration debate have valid arguments.

But given that the wall seems more of an ego-driven issue of Trump’s than of any rational thought process, the impetus for compromise can come only from Trump’s congressional Republicans, starting with Utah’s own delegation. You own him, and you own equal blame for placing your Utah federal employees at risk. It is up to you to show some moral courage, even if that means you blink first. And if you can’t blink, then furlough Trump’s presidency, not your own citizens.

But blink you should, for most Americans want nothing to do with a wall. We simply don’t believe in it.

Thomas Edwards is a furloughed (for the sixth time in his career) employee of the U.S. Geological Survey living in Logan and, like his colleagues, off his savings. The principal beneficiary of his furlough is Mr. Kalik, a 95-pound malamute who’s getting extra-long walks in the snow these days and loving every minute of it.