Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Ms. Wise Goes to Washington

I agreed to go on the school trip to Washington to lobby senators about Darfur, but the night before I was chewing my knuckles and wondering what I had been thinking. I hate politics. I don't have a suit. The only shoes I've got to wear are the grubby black flats I schlepped around Europe in. We're going to a reception at some swanky club and I won't fit in. Everyone else will be a political science major.

In the end I convinced myself that as a good Quaker I needed to force myself to go. Even if I didn't know much about Darfur or say a word in the meetings, I could at least watch other people and be prepared to do it myself next time on some other issue. So I got on the bus the next morning with my best white shirt and the briefcase my mother got for her failed landscaping business.

And lo! it was okay. The other students did seem to be mostly poli sci majors, but most of them didn't have suits either and some didn't even have black shoes. And once I met them I realized that my disadvantages on Capitol Hill weren't so much. I didn't have an accent or wear a hijab. If I had asked a question about another country no one would have written my opinion off with "Of course she's biased, she's Jewish/Korean/Muslim/black."

I felt out-of-place in the Washington mystique, but maybe that's as it should be. I don't actually want to own a suit or be a poli sci major. I should be able to talk with senators without pretending to be one. And what kind of a system would we have if only people who owned suits went to their Congress members' offices? (One not too far removed from our own, unfortunately.) They have some beautiful marble buildings up there. Go visit them, even if you don't have a suit. Give them a piece of your mind.

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