Hi. My name is Jana, and I'm a recovering political junkie.
It has been 17 minutes and 39 seconds since I last had a political discussion....
Clapping...which slows... fades... stops... as people realize what was just said. What...?
Okay, so maybe that's not exactly accurate. Maybe I'm not a recovering political junkie. Perhaps it's more along the lines of "I'm a recovering political employee." I spent nearly a decade, off and on, working in politics. From campaign organizations to magazines to leadership in the US House and Senate, I lived and breathed the stuff.
I did all the usual associated with such jobs: worked crazy hours, met lots of famous politicians (even worked for a few!), learned the difference between "spin" and reality, witnessed incredible public service and incredible corruption, worked hard, played hard, experienced life- and country- changing events first hand, and made a tiny difference.... Tiny, but a difference nonetheless.
I worked through events like the shooting at the Capitol and 9-11. For the former, our office was just up the stairs; I was convinced the shots echoing were no more than stacked chairs falling -- until the Capitol police officer went running by with gun drawn, and the subsequent officer flying by noticed our door was open and yelled at us about a dangerous gunman being loose... For the latter, perhaps some 20 coworkers fled with me to my house a mile from the Capitol; I pulled every TV I had in the house to the living room, handed over my two phone lines so that everyone could call home as the cell phone system had collapsed, and sat dumbstruck staring at the TV for hours.
My thoughts and prayers immediately went out -- still go out daily -- to all those impacted directly by those two events, especially the loved ones I discovered later that I lost. And early the next morning, I tried to put those emotions into words as I drafted a speech for my boss to give on the Senate floor.
Of course, there were funny anecdotes too: The time I stayed at our Capitol office until 4 am putting together a power point presentation on poster board for my boss to present to the entire party conference and managed to get locked out without my ID when I went upstairs to check the super-sized printer; trying to sound awake and coherent at 4 am in order to convince a stern officer that you are indeed a staffer and have a right to be there is pretty damn hard.
Even more hard? Having to show back up at work the next morning at 8 am and play "Vanna White", in charge of moving the poster boards around for your boss as he makes his presentation. That was the first time I made C-SPAN. (The second time was on my own accord, and the curious -- or masochistic -- may view it here. Sadly -- or not! -- I have been unable to find video of my Vanna White appearance.)
I loved politics, I loved so many of the people I met through politics -- many of whom are still very good friends. In fact, I should note those things are actually present tense: I do love politics, and I love the people I met through politics. Well, most of them. Unfortunately, many people in politics seem to think that working in politics means one should play politics. And though rare, the backstabbing and devious manipulations were still enough for me to call it quits.
To call it so quits, that to get away from it, I had to move across country, move eventually to a completely isolated cabin without TV and with only limited Internet access. And yet....
I discovered I could not escape completely. As the truth is, I love politics; I love current events; I love discussion and debate -- reasoned and rational and informative discussion and debate. You know, that odd concept where you actually listen to the other person? Actually care to hear and understand what they are saying? What they are arguing for -- and, just as important, why?
This, of course!, doesn't mean you have to agree with them, or think they're right, or even think they're sane. It just means that their opinions matters as much as yours do, and should be heard. And a little secret? Actually listening to and thoroughly understanding "the other side" helps you: it helps you to formulate, articulate, and, most important, defend your views.
Funny that, huh. This bizarre little thing called democracy. And it's weird little requirements of things like majorities. And the strange little concept of persuasion. You know. That you actually have to be able to defend your own views...and not just to the choir, but to the -- shock! horror! other side.
And so that is why I received one of the best compliments of my life a few days ago. A friend who absolutely, completely, totally -- you know, superdupercalafragalistically -- disagrees with me on a lot of political issues said to me: "You don't froth. You drool intelligently."
Best. Compliment. Ever.