There’s a song I used to listen to a lot and that I related to differently than I relate to it today. It’s Billy Joel’s, Angry Young Man. In those days, I related to this part:
There’s a place in the world for the angry young man
With his working-class ties and his radical plans
He refuses to bend, he refuses to crawl
He’s always at home with his back to the wall
And he’s proud of his scars and the battles he’s lost
And he struggles and bleeds as he hangs on the cross
And he likes to be known as the angry young man
After decades of working in politics, a lot of my views have changed. I remain the same (or close to it) ideologically as I was back then but I have softened in a lot of ways. I have never had a political litmus test for friends but I have learned (the hard way) that some of my friends do.
Today, these lyrics resonate more:
I believe I’ve passed the age of consciousness and righteous rage
I found that just surviving was a noble fight
I once believed in causes too
I had my pointless point of view
And life went on no matter who was wrong or right
I still work and fight for the causes I care about (genocide prevention, voting rights, healthcare reform, gun control, …) but I also see the value of having friends who both share my views and hearing from people who disagree with me. I don’t want to live in an echo chamber.
You don’t have to be angry to make a difference. Even if it is a small difference.
To recap my career, I have spent most of it working on campaigns, for the government, nonprofits, or the United Nations. When I could make a difference, I took the opportunity. A great example is my proudest moment.
In 2007, I worked for Congressman Joe Sestak (D-PA) and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was up for reauthorization. I opposed that. The Legislative Director in the office thought our boss should vote for it because it would look bad politically. As he was a former Admiral in the Navy, I thought he could do the right thing and not have an issue. I texted him the Benjamin Franklin quote (or a version of it), “Those who would give up liberty for security deserve neither.” When he said it on the House floor, I felt like I made a difference. He voted no but it still passed. When I left work that day, after 18 hours, I felt I had fought the good fight.
Example two: When I was an intern in the White House in 1993, I was in the correspondence department and they were sending out letters from Hillary Rodham Clinton from “Mrs. William Jefferson Clinton.” I was horrified. I was actually assigned to the Media Affairs Office but was down there because there were more computers.
The person who got me into the Media Affairs Office told me to “keep quiet.” I didn’t listen. I asked if the First Lady’s Office had been notified and it hadn’t been. That’s just the way they always did things. I cannot say for sure that this is why this policy changed but I never saw that again. This may not seem like a life changing difference I may have made but I think it means the way women are thought of at the White House is a little different because of me.
These aren’t monumental changes that I caused. Nor will they win me any prizes or awards. They are just examples of when I stood up when I was told to sit down.
I am proud of the work I did as an advance person. The letters and cards I got after events I helped put on thanking me for my hard work make me think that maybe people stayed active in politics after I left. The people with whom I remain friends after I left the housing nonprofit make me think that I made their lives a little better.
Today, I support President Joe Biden and am grateful he beat Trump. As a progressive, my patience is not endless but he did say he needed a year to fulfil his promises. I will give him that. I am heartened by the Squad members who are fighting the centrists to get that $3.5 trillion bill passed. If they back down or Biden does not come through with most of his promises by January 20, 2022, I will have a different view. Nothing happens in Washington quickly.
Recently, a friend whom I have known decades has stopped talking to me over politics. This person and I are actually on the same side of a lot off issues but they think I am a shill for the establishment. That makes me sad because I hope I am not that. It also makes me sad because we had reconnected a few years ago and have very similar senses of humor. I can also relate to the anger this person feels at the government right now. I was in that boat back in the 90s. That’s when I wrote this. It’s all about how disappointed I was in the Clinton Administration and Congress for doing nothing in Bosnia and health care reform failed (and we had a bigger majority on both sides of Capitol Hill). Back then I was desperately hoping the Democrats would “grow a pair.”
I am still waiting for that to happen but I refuse to let the “perfect be the enemy of the good.”
The title of this post is a play on the title of a movie about Gloria Vandebilt’s childhood. It was called, “Little Gloria, happy at last.”