As some of you know I began my working life in the other Washington (Washington, D.C.) by serving as the lowest of the lowliest of staff members for a Republican Congressman from Seattle. At the time I had been taking classes in political science and had received college credit for working as an intern on the campaign. When the election was over, when the votes were counted, recounted and counted again it turned out that Joel Pritchard had indeed won the election by the smallest of margins.
As the congressman’s staff began to be assembled they asked if I would consider moving. Not having any other good plans I said yes. And so it was that in a small store room upstairs in the Longworth Building (a room fondly known as “the cage”) I learned to run a tabletop offset press and work with Redactrons, magic typewriters invented by Evelyn Berezin and fueled by magnetic card and tape readers which, when given enough input from the operator, produced form letters.
This was a time in Washington State politics when Republicans were seen as the more progressive and thoughtful party taking seriously our role as care-takers of the environment. Nationally this time marked the beginning of the Watergate scandal, the revelation of the Christmas bombing of Cambodia, and an attempt to close down the United States Public Health Service Hospitals, one of which resided in the First Congressional District of the time. Each of these issues generated hundreds and hundreds of letters and postcards; each one received a letter back in the mail.
As I think about some aspects of our current presidential elections which border on circus entertainment laced with an undercurrent of hatred, intolerance and violence, I also find myself reflecting on that election so long ago when a few hundred votes made all the difference in a rather obscure congressional election.
That our voices and votes make a difference also made itself known in our democratic precinct caucus the Saturday before Easter where the presence of two supporters of one candidate made a large difference in the number of delegates accorded that candidate.
Our particular precinct had the largest turnout in Lake Forest Park and impassioned mini-speeches were made on both sides. Minds were changed one way or the other. Together we stood side-by-side with our neighbors in a state of civility with common purpose. Given what I have witnessed in the news in various states I found our time spent in the caucus to be refreshing, invigorating and hopeful.
As we walk together through this election cycle I find I have the urge to tattoo the words of Diane Ackerman down one arm and up the other: “I swear I will not dishonor my soul with hatred, but offer myself humbly as a guardian of nature, as a healer of misery, as a messenger of wonder, as an architect of peace.”
Will you join me in this effort? Will you make yourself a messenger of God’s humble mercy, peace and wonder?
Blessings + peace, Laurie