(the national cathedral…didn’t really feel like posting another picture of the capitol.)
Ever since high school, I had wanted to work in politics one way or
another. I loved DC, and traveled here often during college. As a
history major, I had a profound respect for the way our country was
founded, its unique government, and the seemingly endless
possibilities this country provided.
I knew politicians had a tendency to be power-crazed, heartless people
driven by greed and self-promotion, but I was also sure that there
were exceptions. I still believe that…sort of. Maybe.
The fact that I came out of Congress as a whole person is nothing short of a miracle.
I had a few extraordinarily awesome coworkers who reenforced
me with their reasonableness and sanity.
I would not have lasted so long without them and I
am incredibly thankful that we had each other.
(I should add that there are a lot of really great people who work in Congress. I do not wish to imply that the whole place is full of terrible people, although it would seem that it does attract the very worst sort of people.)
Congress is a place where a multitude of temptations exist. I
completely understand why young people like me get sucked into the
system. The congressional buildings are beautiful, you have a cool
little ID badge that gets you into special rooms in the Capitol, you
go through security everyday, you pass big names in the
hallway….from the very beginning you are made to feel like you are a part of
something truly important.
You are also made to feel like if you wanted a life outside of work,
you were made of lesser stuff. Leaving on time got you weird looks from coworkers.
Every night was a contest to see who could stay the latest.
Unfortunately, all of that importance stuff is mostly a facade.
I was supposed to be working for one of the “good ones”–one of
the politicians who had his head on straight and never took a bribe.
One who is looked up to by both sides,
whose constituents sing his praises.
After about 10 months of working there, I started noticing things
that weren’t right. People were being treated
unfairly. Manipulation. Deception. Hypocrisy.
Dishonesty. All of the things that a transparent
entity should not have. All of the things that
any entity should not have.
It was starting to bear heavily on every part of me.
I could share some pretty astounding stories.
But to point fingers and name names would seem defensive and bitter.
There is a time and place for government transparency,
but it is not here on my innocent little blog. I don’t
want to ruin it with the harsh realities of the
world if I can help it.
After I left, I waited about a week and then I emailed
my boss a very lengthy email. I was as brief as I could be, but there
was a lot to say. I asked him to tell me I was wrong in the way I thought
of him, because I wanted to believe that I misunderstood somehow, or
that he is not getting the full truth about things from
those beneath him.
I said all I wanted to say. And there was closure. For me, at least.
I have given a lot of thought as to why
I want to talk about this at all on my blog. I wrote a post for
today, and then deleted 80% of it. It is hard to decide
what I should say when I have so many thoughts and
feelings about the whole thing.
But really, I think people have a right to know.
We are paying these people to represent us, after all. Part
of me wants to say, “well, I’m out of that toxic environment, so
I can just forget about it!” But then it’s the U.S. government…
I also know a lot of you can relate to work experiences like this.
I know these things don’t just happen in the U.S. Senate.
It’s a shame, yes.
So really it comes down to this:
the U.S. Senate is not the hope of the world, as
much as it would like to think that it is. I learned a lot about
government, and how it is really run. I read the news differently now.
I care about politics in a different way than I did before.
In the two-and-a-half years I worked there, I just got a crash course in human
nature and how corrupt it is at its very core. I could say I learned to
be wary of big government. Or, I could just say I learned to be
wary of individuals who value power
and money more than compassion and selflessness.
That’s probably the more useful lesson in all of this.
Your priorities dictate the kind of person you are going to be.
You cannot hide from them. No matter what you say you want for
yourself, your family, or the country, you cannot
abide by your standards if the most important thing to you is yourself
and your own desires.
So there, I guess that is what the U.S. Senate taught me.