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And We’re Off

December 20, 2007

Congress has gone home and the FCNL office is closed next week. We interns are scattering around the country, returning home to tell tales of the three months we spent in Washington so far.

Reflecting on my past few months I am overcome by the feeling that I have not learned all that much about Washington.

Yesterday Trevor asked me, “So how do you feel about being inside the beltway?” and I didn’t know how to respond. I am turned off by the power plays and ambition that I feel swirling around me constantly. Sometimes I don’t want to talk about work and policy at happy hour, and don’t want to whip out my business card at every party I attend. Then I will be struck by an experience that shows me that this isn’t all that DC is, and that I know about a woefully small portion of the city, even of the professional city of which I am a part.

Example: Last night I attended my boyfriend’s office Christmas party. He works for an big fancy think tank on Mass Ave, and I am always a little skeptical of how seriously they take themselves (which is saying something coming from capitol hill, where we think a lot of the importance of our work). What should I discover however, but that these people who appear on CNN and NPR and rub shoulders with the President of the World Bank are totally silly. They do bad stand-up comedy and put on skits poking fun at one another. I suppose I should have surmised this from reading about the White House Press Corps dinner, but I was a little surprised, no less because I find that this office, though attuned to our personal needs, sometimes lacks levity.

Bring on the skits!

This is perhaps an echo of my previous question — why can’t we find the fun in doing good? Yes, perhaps it is driven by guilt that our country perpetrates horrible crimes and that others are less fortunate, but wouldn’t more people get involved more willingly if they had a great time lobbying or going to a protest?

What concrete steps can we take in our office to make politics fun (ah ha — I am also echoing Dan A’s intern speech)? Perhaps more on the ground active means of getting constituents involved — lobby days! visits! games! Why couldn’t we have an issues fair, in which we play games and get candy…. and talk about our issues? Ok, that might be inappropriate for our very serious issues, but I think the point is to engage people, and let them know that even if we are working on ending horrible bombings in Iraq or Lebanon, or trying to stop torture, it’s still ok to have a little fun while you do it. It could even be more effective.

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