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Yesterday, I climbed into the belly of the government expecting it to have the formal parliamentary nature of the British monarchy, and less that of a spice bazaar in India.
But I was wrong. It was chaotic, messy, loud, and without any sense of order. From the outside, it looked like an artificially fabricated system created to suppress the masses, something so undeniably hopeless and anchored in a luck’s draw (I mean with over 60 bills passed on a daily basis and if representatives don’t even know what they’re voting for, like what???). It made you question the legitimacy and even the moral conscience of these politicians.
And yet, amidst that entropy, I could tell there was in fact a system. Not a methodical one maybe, but there was a semblance of something- more like a game, actually. And you have to know the rules in order to break them. You have to step into the enemy’s lair to know what he looks like and how he fights and where his vulnerabilities lie if you want to even come close to defeating him.
Some admittedly, may call this process ‘appeasement’, or even naive. You think you can change a flawed system? You think you’re doing any good? Things will never change.
Ah, that good ol’ adage. “Things will never change”, a phrase used by small people to imply that you should give up, only because they’re too closed out of your world to see the slow incremental impact and progress that you see every single day. “Things” take a while to budge from their stubborn ways, especially the larger and more important those “things” are.
In fact, I used to feel the same. I walked in yesterday only after extensively grumbling to my husband as I lay in bed that morning (“why is this so early”, “why did I even agree to come”, and then a final resounding wail: “ughhhh I don’t want to goooooooooo” while stuffing my face into a pillow and sulking at the misfortune of having a best friend who forces me to go to high class events when I’d rather just lounge in the confines of my comforter).
As I was saying, I used to feel cynical towards this political performance myself. Until I saw Fez lobbying for HB22 (House Bill- not Hemoglobin, as I learned yesterday) to a middle-aged representative. I was standing too far to make out exactly what he was saying, but I could see him leaning in close, his hands animated and eyes flashing. At first I was worried. The representative’s face seemed closed off. His forehead furrowed, and he even started scowling at some point.
I sighed internally. Poor Fez. This is why young kids grow up broken. I wouldn’t blame the dude if this was the sole reason why he ended up disenfranchising and distrusting the syst- WAIT THEY’RE HUGGING NOW? Wait, WHAT?
True. They were hugging, then shaking hands and smiling, and now Fez was coming over and he looked happy. Ecstatic, even.
“He’s going to vote for it,” he said, breathless.
“Wait, just like that??” I asked, extremely confused and reconsidering my initial assumption that politicians had concrete blood and no heart.
“Yeah. He said he didn’t realize what the consequences of that bill would be, so I just told him.”
“And he’s voting to push it through now?” I ask again, obviously not having understood the premise of ‘lobbying’ until that very moment.
Ignoring the inconsequential detail that most people voting for these bills have no idea what they’re voting for, there you have it! One small victory between a high school student and a state representative in some crowded hallway on the second floor of a capital building on a Tuesday morning.
And it was in those 5 minutes that I realized what this was about. This wasn’t two opposing worlds coming together, a saga of politicians versus their citizens. This wasn’t about overthrowing an entire governing body, nor about changing everything all at once and as rapidly as possible.
No, this was actually about the human connection. It always was, from the moment our founding fathers sat down in that room to carve out this democracy, to the tumultuous moment we find ourselves in today. Any mistakes we’ve made in our past have only been because we didn’t seek out that mutual human connection- we didn’t take the effort or we didn’t show up to understand each other.
The truth is, this process has never always been rosy and it sure isn’t close to being perfect, but it’s our process. And because it’s our’s, we can’t disown it for its flaws and ancient stubbornness. After all, though the great people of change in this country didn’t always agree with it, they definitely didn’t turn their backs on it. Never did they say “things will never change” Never did they appease the system by ignoring it, or looking away.
They fought for it. Because they believed it could change. And then they pounded the streets and rattled their iron jail bars and wrote controversial books and lobbied for policies and empowered the youth and ran for office and worked tirelessly to sow human justice and compassion in the hearts of their opposition. It was messy.
But so too, are humans.
Sameera Omar: Georgia Tech Graduate, Regional Director of MIST Atlanta