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Everyone felt it

Oct 18, 2013 - By Steven R. Peck

The federal shutdown had a psychological effect on all American citizens

More than two weeks after it began, the partial shutdown of the federal government has ended.

The word "partial" is used loosely and kindly. The more fitting term would be "almost total."

If you are a federal employee, or work for a program that is funded in part or in full with federal dollars, then the shutdown -- born of an ugly and, ultimately, useless political struggle -- hit you close to home. You felt it in terms of lost or delayed wages, delays in ongoing projects, and the knowledge that you were likely to face log jams and other catch-up sorts of problems once you did get back to work.

But even if the effects of the shutdown weren't "primary" for you, don't be mistaken: It affected you all the same.

Through personal experience and news coverage, each of us can count at least a few ways in which our lives were disrupted and, generally, made worse by the shutdown.

Not the least of them is the weeks of renewed exposure to a bruising, insulting, angry and demeaning pattern of behavior by our elected representatives.

To hear, see, read and otherwise experience a late summer and early autumn of ugly attacks and counterattacks directed at one another by members of Congress is damaging.

It is damaging to the national morale. It is damaging to our sense of human dignity and decorum.

It is damaging to the reputation of Congress, which is an extension of all of us. Further damage to its reputation is something Congress definitely does not need.

And, even if we might not feel it at the top of our consciousness, this sort of counterproductive stalemate, fueled by antagonism and, it seemed, outright hatred, is damaging to our self-confidence and self-worth.

How often did we find ourselves parroting the vicious, often reprehensible, words and rhetorical tone of the antagonists as the shutdown went on? How often did we find ourselves taking their terrible example and repeating it?

And how much harder now will it be to find a satisfactory answer to the question "Is this really the best we can do?"

Unfortunately, we are going to be confronted with that question and its disappointing answer much sooner than we would like. The ballyhooed agreement that members of Congress finally slugged out through the muck really isn't much of an agreement at all. In truth, it appears to do little more than set the stage for a repeat performance of this atrocious episode just in time to sour the holiday season.

The sound of Christmas carols will have to vie with the screeching, groaning and schoolyard-style insults that characterized the past month.

With that in mind, everyone's New Year's resolution for 2014 will be for these troublesome, dysfunctional people to find a clue.

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MAIL SUBSCRIBERS: Thursday's edition of The Ranger was delivered to the Riverton post office by 3:30 p.m., in time to meet the postal deadline for next-day mail delivery.

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