by Jim Harris

“The Grand Canyon is closed.” I actually heard that announcement on the radio the other day in a report about the government shutdown. My first thought upon hearing the news was, “Does God know about this?” because I’m pretty sure that He/She would not approve of Congress depriving the masses of such natural wonder.

It also seemed to me that it would take a lot more work to close down the Canyon than to keep it open. I mean, does it have a dome or something? I was not aware of that. Maybe it’s some sort of national security secret to which we average citizens are not privy. So some robotic operative inside a Utah bunker pushes a button and wham — it’s closed. Or maybe there’s a fence. America is adept at building good strong fences. They make good neighbors, right?

But my big question was: “Why did they feel the need to close it?” It’s just a gigantic hole in the earth. The same for millions of years. It doesn’t need a lot of maintenance or servicing to run smoothly. No paint jobs, resurfacing, none of that. Just leave it the heck alone, and it’s fine.

So I went to the Grand Canyon website (yes, the Grand Canyon has a website) to get more information, but all I got there was the message, “Due to the lapse in appropriated funds, all public lands … will be closed. For more information, FAQs, and updates, please visit”

Yes, the shutdown has a website, too, and it appeared to be up and running at full speed. Probably manned by the same people responsible for putting up the fence around the Grand Canyon. These would be the folks at the high end of the importance scale, which goes “omniscient, essential, crucial, indispensable, necessary, optional, disposable, rotten, stinko.” And what, pray tell, is the difference between “essential” and “non-essential” federal employees? Are members of Congress “essential?”

I came away with one important FAQ still unanswered, however: why are “public lands” subject to government shutdown? Isn’t that contrary to the meaning of the word “public?” Is it because of the possibility of lawsuits? Are they afraid someone might accidentally fall into the Grand Canyon and sue the government? It’s a mile deep and 18 miles across, for God’s sake. You’d have to be deaf, dumb, blind and stoned out of your mind not to see it there. And yet, in this age of Funniest Home Videos, you can almost imagine the scene: “Look! Junior is heading straight for the Grand Canyon. HEY! Junior! Look out! TAKE OFF THE EARPHONES! YOU’RE HEADING STRAIGHT FOR … Oh No!!”

Junior, who was busy sending a text, (“Yo, wassup?”) fails to see the huge “DON’T GO PAST THIS SIGN” marker; trips over it, in fact, and tumbles into the abyss. On the way down, his brief, uneventful life flashes before his eyes, and when the credits are done rolling, he still has another 3,000 feet to fall. Miraculously, he lands on a giant cactus, which, although prickly, still manages to break his fall. After he agrees not to sue, the Department of the Interior gives him a free “I Fell into the Grand Canyon — and Survived” tee shirt, and Junior becomes a much-in-demand motivational speaker and internet celebrity.

Back at the Shutdown website, there were many other useful bits of information:

• ALSO CLOSED: The sky, the sea, the moon. And not only will the Statue of Liberty be closed, but it will also be discharging foul-smelling, noxious vapors guaranteed to turn even the most determined raft of refugees away, although at this point in our pathetic recent history, it’s probably not necessary.

• STILL REQUIRED: Taxes for the salaries and generous benefits of all members of Congress and their large staffs, no matter whether they do their jobs or not.

• STILL AVAILABLE (for a price): Food, air, water.

• STILL OPEN: McDonalds, casinos, prisons (well, technically they’re closed, but they’re open).

• OPEN WITH RESTRICTIONS: The National Arboretum. You can stop, but you can’t smell the roses.

And finally, down at the bottom of the web page were the comforting words, “Cheer up; the best things in life are still free. They’re just closed.”

As for me, I have a perfect solution for reopening the national parks and the rest of the federal government. STOP PAYING the salaries and benefits of all members of Congress and their staffs until they reach agreement on a budget! I can guarantee you that the federal government will be open for business within 24 hours!