Social media have been abuzz all week with commentary on the federal government shutdown. With Facebook and Twitter feeds dominated by memes, one-liners and other satire, it’s worth taking time to reflect on how we discuss and digest the news.
Typically, national news stories are quickly satirized, with Comedy Central personalities like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert often preferred for news consumption over traditional outlets. Frustration is easily and poignantly expressed in humor, and the seemingly ludicrous nature of some sides in this shutdown especially lends itself to Web parody. But at a university so close to Capitol Hill and so directly affected by a hiatus in federal functionality, these events merit serious consideration.
The government shutdown has tangible negative consequences for Georgetown students. Most importantly, parents and friends at home have been furloughed, putting families finances in question. But it has left a mark on the Hilltop as well: ROTC was forced to cancel a training retreat originally scheduled for this weekend, and the crew team cannot use equipment stored on public land rented by the university. Thesis students are unable to access the public resources they need for research, putting them behind on meticulously planned schedules.
In many instances, the need to view these issues through a humorous lens is understandable, and the more absurd aspects of the government shutdown are best handled with a lighter tone. But comedy must be coupled with sober scrutiny, not only of the events at hand but also how they affect those around us, on hand and online.