The Block Island Times

Running from sequestration

By Gloria S. Redlich | Mar 12, 2013

Once again we have taken to the air to bridge the broad gap between ourselves and the youngest members of our family, which makes its nest in Los Angeles. While our travel is driven by an overwhelming desire to be within arms’ length of children we see infrequently, I admit we are just as often impelled by the wish to run away, to hide away, to sequester ourselves — away from Nor’easters and other cares of daily life in New England.

This year, there is something else that I am running away from: it is sequestration — from the fact of it and from the word itself. Who dumped this word so unceremoniously into our lives?

Though I do know the answer — that the powers-that-be have threatened to take (and have now taken) “forcible possession” of government assets in order to subject them to Draconian cuts affecting everything from the military to child-care.

At this time, I’m not casting blame for national financial woes onto one party or another. There is enough blame to go around without my entry into the fray. Neither am I laying out a case for a particular resolution—though the option made by a bipartisan group of Senators to go the route of 50 percent cuts and 50 percent revenues makes an equitable kind of sense. But what do I know — I, a selfish seeker after my own version of sequester?

Objects to hijacking the language

I am, however, making a strenuous objection to the hijacking of language. We all accept that sequestration is something that juries do when they are isolated in their deliberations. I’ve already mentioned it is tastelessly synonymous with seizure and can mean a general cut in government spending. However, the dictionary confides that the first and friendlier definition of the verb sequester is to isolate or hide-away, which is the one I prefer and is precisely what we are now doing. We are sequestering ourselves, “hiding away” from life, which is what one does on a holiday.

I love squirreling myself into patches of warm sunlight far away from wild winter storms that periodically punctuate my life on the northeast coast. I love curling up with a book in a nook far enough from mundane worries to keep me from obsessing about them. I feel safe in my patch of sunlight, slipping into the daily routine of a daughter I seldom see and adapting to new circadian rhythms.

Oh, to hang out cliff-free and guilt-free

I do not want to think about another cliffhanger for the country; for just a week or two I’d like to hang out cliff-free and guilt-free, sequestering in a holistic niche where the most important thing to decide is whether or not to have hummus and crackers or salsa and carrot sticks for lunch. Usually it is all of the above.

Perhaps it has to do with disbelief: we have a family joke that we bring out whenever newscasters dramatize approaching storms repeatedly showing fleets of snow plows lining up. We call this kind of journalistic exaggeration a media hoax; recently, of course, with extremes of weather we are chastened and admit we are sometimes wrong. However, when it comes to the political gamesmanship driving the legislative process, denial seems to set in automatically for the average citizen.

For those of us who have parking dharma — at least two of us in our family have it and we always find parking spaces — it is hard to imagine an impasse such as the one Congress and the President are locked into. Hopeless optimists, we have been known to suggest that the universe has a way of working itself out. However, even this kind of faith in possibilities acknowledges that there must be individuals willing to work at working it all out.

Resenting the use of sequestration

So it is that I resent the use of sequestration for the unkind purpose of slashing funding for programs affecting every level of our society. With sequestration they have replaced fiscal cliff with yet another euphemism meant to mislead us.

I want them to use another term. Sinking into cliché, I unabashedly want them to call a spade a spade and tell it like it is: simply tell us directly as Webster has that sequestrate means to “seize or impound property for the creditors or the state.” This can be even more simply translated into what it is — randomly chopping programs without concern for whom it hurts.

This state of affairs has come about because our Legislative branch cannot bring itself into dialogue with the Executive, and the Executive seems to get bogged down in an illusion that legislators operate on a higher standard of behavior than they can even imagine for themselves.

So it is that I — one more frustrated member of John Q. Public — want to sequester in the old fashioned way, to put myself aside for rest and recreation, to take an unbroken piece of space and time to stop and look at the night sky and smell the Gerber daisies (Actually, they have no scent.)

Reasonable, the word legislators run from

Though acknowledging my own selfishness, I wish to point out that even our leaders prefer play to work. I, as many others, want members of Congress and the President to hammer out the business of the country: chisel away at creating bills, compromise, pass these along from the Senate to the House to the President and back again if necessary. And compromise — each side giving and taking something. Did I say compromise? Isn’t that something we all learned in kindergarten? Somehow, the 50-50 possibility sounds more and more reasonable.

But perhaps reasonable is the word legislators run from. Speaking of kindergarten, on February 28 the New York Times reported Speaker John Boehner slammed the door on further discussion. He declared there would be no more deliberation on increasing taxes and that the House instead would go on recess. Who wouldn’t prefer the playground to a combative session within the halls of Congress?

Which brings me back to my three-week sequester: Cutting off no services to others, I shall wrap myself in the brief joy of it, stretching out the moments and the days to make them last. When I finally return to home and reality, I shall buckle back down to daily and global responsibilities, among them paying my fair share of taxes and signing a petition that members of Congress get back to work.

I shall ask that they be sequestered — like juries. Since most of the bogging down seems to take place in the House, bring in the pizza, Mr. Boehner, and keep your people there until their deliberations can produce a sensible compromise satisfying the needs of the American people. And otherwise keep your hands off the language and my holiday.

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