It’s starting to look as though the 2019 Government Shutdown may become the longest in American history, two days away from surpassing the Clinton Administration’s 1995-96 Shutdown. This gives rise to two interpretive facts: one, the stakes on which it rests are monumental in our modern context, and two, this Shutdown may or may not be a satisfying conclusion to a conflict–and an overall story–so raucous on its onset.
Rewind to 2018, back to the beginning where the immigration issue, crisis, whatever you want to call it, hit the fan when multiple migrant caravans began making their way towards Mexico and the United States. Due to many factors, among them the Midterm Elections, it became a largely covered story spanning several weeks. These caravans dispersed, many participants, I believe, settling in Mexico, their government offering asylum, and others coming to the U.S-Mexico Border. Many entanglements occurred, a few of a violent nature the U.S media covered assiduously–and as soon as the Midterm Elections had ended, the caravan stories were dropped as fast as they’d appeared.
Large stakes, widely reported, yet something felt incomplete. In a story format, there’d been an abrupt beginning, a rousing middle, but it had no resolution. The conflict was apparently simple. An assemblage of migrants had left their countries in an attempt to gain access to better conditions in Mexico and the United States, and they’d not chosen to do so through legal ports of entry. It featured key players (main characters), and it threw in some moral questions for citizens to ponder as they went about their lives. A tale without an ending: no going full-circle, and hardly a cute “The End,” or “Fin.”
Things went relatively silent from thereon, and by things, I’m referring to the immigration news. Although, admittedly, the media never relinquished its hold over those stories and kept them undercover in case of future relevance. They released sizable chunks every other week, but as Kenny Rogers said, “you gotta know when to hold ’em.” The conflict died down, the story itself settling into an awkward lump on the floor of General American Reception, (G.A.R), the Twitter megaphone no longer a valid mouthpiece.
Onward to 2019, then, and we have in our grasps an almost tangible ending, at least we believe we do. If we’re following the classic style, every story needs an ending, but say we look through a journalist’s lenses and pick up their pen, then it’s a universal fact not all of those stories have endings. For that matter, those existing aren’t happy ones. Through a series of inevitable arguments and debates, a Lady Justice encounter transpires, and we’re tasked to ask ourselves whether it’s far more right or wrong to snatch at the fastest available ending and label it under increasingly complex synonyms for “happy” and “sad.”
We know how the Clinton Shutdown ended, but that doesn’t mean we know how the Trump Shutdown will end. A great quality of stories (traditional ones, that is) is their finite answers to proposed questions. Ambiguity has little place in the world of fables and fairytales, a sharp knock to reality. What’s not often so praised in those categories is the desire to explore, to innovate, look beyond the printed words; and I suppose what this whole situation comes down to is the question of whether we want to close this storybook once and for all, or leave one sentence unwritten and return to it when the inspiration again strikes us.