Thursday, December 6, 2012

You and I

My time in DC is coming to an end! Headed up to Philly tomorrow, then New York the day after. I really, really hope to return to DC soon.

Today was great. I woke up, packed out of my friends' house (they, as all my DC friends and fam, have been so amazing and flexible while I've been coming in and out of the city and changing plans and dropping in and leaving stuff...what a blessing to know people like that :)

Big thanks to Donna, who swapped her little suitcase for my huge one and deprived me of at least 25 pounds! This morning I was able to power-walk to the Senate building with that rolly suitcase in tow and make it to Senator Cantwell's office right on time!

On the way I caught up on my emails (and didn't trip on those bricky sidewalks or get hit by a car, I know it was pretty poor judgement) and managed to finally get a hold of my new Congressperson, Susan DelBene. My Congressional office has been pretty much vacant for months, as my Congressman Jay Inslee just ran for Governor and won! So finally I tracked down DelBene's new Washington office and scheduled a meeting with her staff tomorrow. I was seriously planning on walking out of Cantwell's office, buying a MegaBus ticket on my phone, and getting on a MegaBus to either Philadelphia or New York this afternoon. I was fine with staying in DC an extra day, especially since I didn't know where I was staying in New York!

Now I got that on lock. It's hard for me plan more than day in advance, I really amaze myself sometimes. I could actually envision myself getting off the bus in New York City and wandering around and looking for a place to stay. Just like in the movies!!

yeah, but no.

So, Senator Maria Cantwell has a weekly constituent coffee at her office, and though I missed it the week before (I didn't know to register, and it was cancelled at the last minute) I extended my DC stay to catch the Senator this week. She had walked up to me last summer and shook my hand at the Seattle Gay Pride parade, and my friend and I were like....."was that our Senator?....sweet!"

Governor-elect Jay Inslee was also marching in the parade. Washington has definitely become a leader in LGBT rights...woot!

So I sat down in a meeting room with about 15 other constituents. It was mostly older folks, one teenager, and one internship interviewee. This was more people than I expected, and I wondered what I would have time to say! As soon as Senator Cantwell walked in, she started going around and getting peoples' names, cities, guy worked at the port of Tacoma, another was in aviation, then I told the Senator I was from Woodinville and Leavenworth ("ok, so you shuttle back and forth down the 2?" "eeeeeyeah. pretty much, haha!") and that I'd spent 8 months with a non-profit working in the West Bank. I cut it short there and told her I was happy to see her! She's a very personable Senator, very friendly and enthusiastic, but she just kind of nodded and looked at me for a few seconds, which was a very noticeable interruption. I was holding out for a question later, keep it light, keep it casual! I just smiled at her and kept nodding. She kept going around, and met another man and his service dog named Heehaw.

For the next 30 minutes or so, the Senator talked about Boeing, and the tech industry, and how we need to encourage our students to study science and engineering. I was really interested in what she was saying, and I was also wondering what it was like to be a Senator, and looking at the pictures of past Washington Senators, and noticing that Cantwell was the first woman pictured. I was also making a mental note that maybe this wasn't the place to talk about foreign affairs.

Cantwell was talking about the geoducking industry and how a geoduck, which takes a dollar to grow, is being sold for $25 a pound to Asian markets....and one guy asked "what's a geoduck" and everyone laughed about how ugly they are...and another guy reminded us that the Geoduck is the mascot of...

Evergreen State! My younger brother goes there. Rachel Corrie went there. I'm a Washingtonian. This isn't as irrelevant as I'd pushed myself into thinking it was. I'd convinced myself that this coffee meeting was still worth it if I could get a more formal meeting with the staff later. It's still worth being here, even if I don't say anything. Why was I silencing myself?

 One of the staffers motioned to Senator Cantwell that it was almost time to wrap it up. The Senator looked around and any last questions? Anyone? No? ughhh.

Then she looked at me and asked, "anything you want to say about Palestine?"

Oh my. I glanced at the staffer and said, "Yeah! Well, I don't want to take too much of your time, of a growing constituency in Washington that really cares about this issue (nods all around) and I'm working with a non-profit organization that is actually mapping this constituency to make your job easier and show you how many people in Washington care about, not just security in the Middle East, but justice for all people...I worked in a village in an area where there are over 12,000 demolition orders standing from the Israeli army, and what can that be for except to oppress people and steal their land? (nods from the Evergreen folks) So you were talking about Evergreen, my brother goes there, you know this is a big issue in Olympia (nods), and now a growing issue in Seattle. So I want to show you the communities, like the Quakers, and Jewish Voice for Peace, that are coming together, I want to help make their voices heard so it's easier for you to stand up on this (nod from the Senator) and I'd like to stay in contact with you and your staff as we continue this work."

She responded, "that's great, thank you for your leadership, the staffer you want to talk to is Amit over there..."

And that was it! We all shuffled out and lined up for pictures, and after I got mine, the Senator thanked me again, and asked me if I was involved with J Street, and said it's really a shame what's happening over there, in reference to the demolition orders (which was surprisingly strong, I thought!) but we both agreed that Washington was relatively progressive on Israel/Palestine. I finally told her that I wanted to maintain a relationship with her office because I would be going back to Palestine and wanted to make sure they were aware of my work. She seemed a little confused..."because American aid workers have been in dangerous situations with the Israeli army and I want to know that my government will stand up..."

She got what I meant, and reaffirmed that she appreciated me coming to do that. I had a really good feeling from her. We shook hands again and I rolled my suitcase out of the office, out onto Capitol Hill. What a beautiful day! Union Station and its gargantuan facade was in front of me, with its three mondo wreaths hanging between the columns. I would not be getting on a bus today. I needed to secure a place for the night (cousin! check!) and figure out how to maximize my time in Philly and New York. 

First, onto the National Museum of the American Indian. I have some American history to learn, while I'm advocating for indigenous rights on the other side of the planet...



This song got stuck in my head because my friend Austin was singing it. He expressed horror that I didn't like it. urghhhh.