There were a lot of people atop Breed’s Hill in Charlestown on Tuesday. Some had come despite the government shutdown. Some had come because of it, to get a photo of the Bunker Hill Monument with a CLOSED sign on it. It was almost too easy; you’d still want a good caption to go with it on Facebook, something that captured the tricky absurdity of just what was going on.
The government shutdown of 2013 got underway in a million small and large ways as the federal government began powering down, shuttering anything from offices to official Twitter accounts, all because Congress could not come together. There are really no days when Congress comes together anymore, but on Tuesday you could take a picture of it.
Cathy Herrell, who was visiting from Cincinnati, had been taking photos of all the CLOSED signs as she and her husband walked the Freedom Trail. “I’m looking forward to some good food in the North End. None of that will be shut down by the government, right?” she asked.
Figuring out what was and what wasn’t closed was a big question of the day. And despite the signs stating that the monument, along with the rest of the National Park Service, was definitely not open for business, a surprising number of people pulled on the door anyway, just to feel that it was true.
It was true. And it brought a lot of unhappiness.
“It’s so embarrassing,” Sue Allyn said as she and her husband took pictures of the outside of the monument. “As the keepers of democracy, what are we showing the world? We allowed the self-serving interests of a few to shut down our government. It feels like something that would happen in a schoolyard. I thought we were banning bullying.”
The couple were visiting from Iowa, on a trip that was something of a re-creation of one her husband, Tim, took as a first-grader in 1956. “I ended up becoming a high school history teacher, and I always say it was that trip to Boston that did it,” he said.
Tim Allyn looked at the sky, noted that it was warm and sunny, and wondered what other trouble Congress might bring. “I suspect if they could, they’d rain on my parade, too.”
Of all the things that closed Tuesday, the shuttering of the nation’s treasures was the most symbolic, the face of the first day of Shutdown 2013, a gathering point for bipartisan frustration. The Internet practically stood up and cheered when a group of World War II veterans from Mississippi ignored the barricades at their national memorial in Washington, D.C.
“I wonder if they will put a big tarp over the Bunker Hill Monument so I can’t even enjoy looking at it?” one man wrote on Twitter.
The idea that such symbols in the care of the federal government, from Yosemite to the Statue of Liberty, were closed until further notice was perhaps the most mocked aspect of the shutdown, the one people yelled about on social media.
Up close, however, it seemed more inane than infuriating. “I’m sure it will be here a few more years,” Marie Pugh of Indianapolis said as she looked through the fence at the USS Constitution, a hundred yards away in the Charlestown Navy Yard. Her husband had sailed on its turnaround in 1976, but this was as close as she was going to get.
“A day late and a dollar short,” she said.
John Driscoll, who was standing with the many flower pots he tends outside his home on Washington Street in Charlestown, said it bothered him that tourists arriving now couldn’t see the best of his neighborhood.
“Think of how many people planned this nice fall trip to New England and they can’t see the Constitution and they can’t climb the monument. It’s totally unnecessary. All politicians are full of it. We should have one party — the American party,’’ he said. “And let’s start by taking care of Americans.”
The question of how the shutdown makes the country look to the rest of the world was another big one. At the monument on Tuesday, ridiculous seemed to be the consensus.
“It’s not really clear for my brain how this is happening,” said Frederik Maier of Germany, who was touring the Northeast with his girlfriend and had paid for a round trip that included a visit to the now-closed Acadia National Park in Maine. “It all sounds rather silly.”