No. 1 lesson from shutdown: Follow facts, not just politics

When the government shut down, so did all the social media outlets.

Now, I’m not talking about Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr literally going full-on blacked out. Every single thing that had to do with the government came to the spotlight the moment it was announced that the government had partially shut down. Shortly before that, I could have sworn the only updates on my social media feeds were about Miley Cyrus or something just as boring.

Here’s the thing: As much as I might want to rant about how all anyone is talking about is the shutdown, despite understanding very little of what is actually going on, I won’t.

It’s alarming how easily people can turn off their minds and act like they understand what’s truly going on when they clearly don’t.

“The Purge” is not happening. There’s no impending apocalypse. This is, contrary to what may be a disturbingly popular belief, not a time to freely commit crimes and get away with them. Just because the federal government is shut down doesn’t mean laws are no longer in effect. Duh.

Another problem afflicting this country is the size of our national debt: It’s off the charts and neither political party will agree on a budget — that’s how we got to this point.

The impact of the government shutdown has even reached college campuses. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights have had to put its sexual assault investigations on hold, according to The Huffington Post.

But that’s not the only negative side effect that the government shutdown is having on college-aged students. The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in New York has been among those institutions hardest hit: It will have to send “more than 1,000 mid-shipmen home if the government doesn’t reopen this week,” according to USA Today.

Scientific research funding is stalled, scholarly resources are not being kept up to date and student veteran services are limited.

While people are understandably upset by the situation, most have close to no idea about what is really happening.

Congress has one key duty, and it’s in the Constitution — decide how to fund the government and all its agencies and programs.

Republicans and Democrats couldn’t agree on a spending plan for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1. The Republican members of the House of Representatives seem to believe that any new bill could either defund or derail the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, while Democrats obviously do not agree.

There are some — albeit few — upsides to the situation. We can learn. As college students, the situation can provide a crash course in exactly how the government functions.

It also provides us with a lesson in civics, clearly showcasing the consequences of democracy at work. When two sides cannot agree on a budget, or anything else, it’s not only individuals who suffer, but the country as a whole does, as well.

While newly minted politicians on social media are throwing their own opinions around, it is nice to see people start to pay attention to politics. It would be even nicer to see everyone pay attention to the facts.

Reach the columnist at tweerasi@asu.edu or follow her on Twitter @tishnii.

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