Image courtesy of The Wall Street Journal
By Abby Anger
As so many of my fellow Catholic University students, I have had the opportunity to intern on Capitol Hill, and while watching the events of Wednesday unfold on national television, I was struck by a deep and personal sadness. The daily office tasks of a Congressional intern can sometimes be rather mundane – answering phone calls, giving tours, and running errands. However, the opportunity to work in the Capitol building, the heart of our country’s government, was a gift that always overshadowed one’s seeming menial role.
The Capitol building perfectly captures our democracy and the people which it serves – from high schoolers art hanging in the staff tunnels to the majesty of the Rotunda dome to the unique snacks in each constituent office. When working there, you are constantly reminded of the gravity of democracy, the personal challenge of determining your place in it, and the gift this form of government provides – the ability to serve your community in a uniquely human way. Watching the rioters shatter windows and stumble around the Senate floor felt so deeply personal, because it wasn’t a stately building that was vandalized, rather our country’s home was being desecrated.
I was an Congressional intern during my sophomore year, one semester with House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) and the other with Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY). When I tell people about those two internships they often assume that the ideological differences in these offices must have been impossible to reconcile, but every office on Capitol Hill is united in one common mission – to serve its constituents. The daily work of these Congressional offices are not newsworthy; rather they help retired individuals work through Medicare, listen to individual concerns over the productivity of the local mail office, or help register families for SNAP. I helped answer all of these questions, direct inquirers, and worked with real people in both the Republican and Democratic office. When watching protesters sit at and vandalize Congressional desks, I thought of the young staffer or intern that would have been answering a constituent phone call and helping a real person from their district back home.
The violence on Wednesday demands a reckoning on how we understand our democracy. During my time in both Congressional offices, the political party was inconsequential when compared to the shared daily work – serving others. We must shift the understanding of our democracy away from false, partisan narratives and towards the real work carried out by Congressmen and women, countless staffers, and interns on behalf of the American people. Recognizing service as the common thread sewn through each Capitol office will serve as a uniting grace in the difficult days of reckoning that lie ahead for our nation.