Anyone who follows Richmond Confessions on Facebook knows that scrolling through those sad, funny and sometimes blatantly weird posts is the perfect way to procrastinate an evening away. It’s fun to see who is always commenting, and to laugh it off when someone confesses to being the contributor of “almost every” post.
The page also serves as a good forum to bring together our university community in solidarity or, occasionally, some seriously problematic shaming. No matter how you feel about it, Richmond Confessions is undeniably a centerpiece of the I’ll-start-studying-right-after-I-finish-reading-this-thing lifestyle for many students.
That is why the admin’s announcement yesterday that they would be shutting down the page was so startling. It raised many questions, such as: Weren’t we told before that there were multiple admins? What future endeavor do you need all of this “feedback” for? Who — if anyone — will take over and carry on this proud tradition? And, come on, are the Google Doc submissions seriously anonymous? Well, my curious friends, I have quite the surprise for you!
First, I have two confessions to make myself. The first is that this is not breaking news. In fact, I’ve been aware of what I am about to share with you for almost two weeks. And when I first heard of it, I was horrified. The level of irresponsibility and careless manipulation in this story is not something to take lightly. In fact, it is so despicable that I wish no one had to hear about it at all. But, as a Very Serious Journalist, I eventually felt that it was my duty to share what I know.
My second confession is that this article is a mean, dirty trick. I don’t know anything at all about the Richmond Confessions admin and I care very little about the page (besides the obvious procrastination value). I would, however, jump to read a tell-all from the person behind the Doc (note to real admin: call me if interested). Hopefully that tabloid-constructed mentality is true of Collegian readers, too, because I actually do have a horrifying story of the misuse of power to talk about. It’s the government shutdown, and even I probably wouldn’t read an opinion article with those two words in the title. This is because a) It just sounds boring, b) The only way in which the shutdown has affected me personally thus far has been making it impossible for me to cite the U.S. Census Bureau website for an essay and c) It feels a lot like there isn’t anything we can do about it anyway, so what’s the point? I will address the latter two of those three points, because I clearly already took care of the first by tricking you into thinking I had juicy gossip.
Even if you are like me, and privileged enough to only be touched by the shutdown in the most trivial ways possible, the real-life consequences for many others are so real that it would be wrong to pretend they don’t exist. The most obvious is furloughed government employees. Over 800,000 “nonessential” workers have been sent home to just wait it out. In case canceling work sounds like fun, know that there’s a good chance that these employees will never get paid back for their enforced vacation. This means that even though 800,000 Americans went out, found jobs, showed up to them regularly and did good enough at them that they weren’t fired, they could still end up without a livelihood for the foreseeable future (those of you already working or close to graduation can feel appropriately indignant about that). It’s less well-known that even the government employees who have been deemed “essential” and still have to go to work will not all receive their paychecks until after the shutdown ends.
What will these suddenly income-less people do for their fundamental needs such as food, you may ask? Well, if they’re pregnant women or mothers of young children, they will no longer be able to turn to the Women, Infants and Children nutritional program under the Department of Agriculture for help. This program provided approximately 9 million parents and children in need with healthy food and health care information, but now this essential service has been laid off just like the FDA employees who make sure the food you are able to afford won’t give you salmonella.
Veterans and people with disabilities will also most likely stop receiving benefits, or be unable to apply for them at all. Small businesses will be unable to apply for loans. Head Start programs across the country that educate and provide many basic, essential services for low-income children will eventually close. Maybe saddest of all, the National Institutes of Health will be forced to turn away hundreds of cancer patients seeking treatment in clinical trials.
So, before you forget about that census data you couldn’t use in your essay and stop caring about the shutdown, first make sure you don’t care about anyone with a disability or a rare or serious disease, anyone who owns a small business, works for the government, is a veteran, a mother or a child or likes to be confident the food they eat won’t kill them because no one inspected it for dangerous bacteria.
Now that we care, let’s tackle the problem of what we can do about it. In an ironic twist of fate, it seems like we, the people are quite powerless in the face of our glorious, democratic government ceasing to work for us. But let’s really refuse to take it lying down. There are all kinds of petitions you can sign and letters you can write. On a much more basic level, we can just make ourselves able to have informed, constructive conversations about what’s going on in the country. Paying attention is the first step toward being an active citizen, and the more of those we have, the more we can start to take back power from a House of “Representatives” who didn’t get their way and are throwing a tantrum that is already having catastrophic consequences for everyday people across the country. The most important thing we can do here is take a second to stop worrying about where we’ll digitally, anonymously flirt with each other and instead, think about voting functional politicians into office the next time around.