It was 1970. My first year at university. I was in the honors program and living in a sorority. My parents thought it was all good. But I was beginning to listen to the social justice and anti-war messages from that radical campus organization, the YWCA. Messages that would change me. Messages that would lead me to be president of the YWCA, a student member of the all-university senate, and a leader in the anti-war movement on campus.
Did they see this coming? I have no idea. But my parents thought that an experience in civics might be a good thing, so they arranged for me to spend the following summer back in Washington DC working for a Democratic congressman. It didn’t go as planned. I saw my first production of Hair. I bought my first pair of buffalo sandals…perhaps you had to be a child of the 60s. And I volunteered to participate in a health care initiative in some of DC’s poorest neighborhoods.
For the congressman I was, among other administrative tasks, responsible to compile the results of a survey on the Vietnam war he had sent to his largely Republican district. The will of the people was absolutely clear. Over three quarters of the responses wanted us to get out. If not immediately, soon. The other quarter wanted us to ‘bomb the hell out of Hanoi.’
But the will of the people didn’t match the will of hawkish Senator HM Jackson and so when the vote came before the House this congressman voted to continue the war. It wasn’t even that he agreed with Jackson. It was all about currying favor with this powerful individual to strengthen and sustain his own congressional job. It was a summer of critical thinking and radical ideas and if I had any idealistic illusions about how government works, they were fading fast.
Dennis and I have been talking about faith in government. Faith that, for some, seems to manifest in petitions to current elected officials, especially Republicans, hoping that they will do the right thing around issues of health care and confirmations. Faith that folks are tenaciously clinging to in a belief that this system of governance can and will work. Dennis and I have faith in a lot of things, but we don’t have much faith in this. For me, that faith was called into question decades ago. Even then I knew it was a faith that would be sorely tested.
Judith – firstname.lastname@example.org