Word on the Street: The Speaker Advances Down the Hall…

Russ Meyer — Portland, Oregon

We straightened up (not really knowing what to do but what we were already doing). Two secret service officers entered, followed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Two officers remained outside. From that point everything happened very fast: Introductions, thanks all around for being there, and away we went. We filed out in front of hundred of lights and lenses, and we told our stories. Not unique stories, just ours.

We, the “faces of the unemployed” were there to make it real for the country, to try to make people understand what it means to be at the very end of a rope. For the millions of people unemployed right now, for those about to lose their benefits, we told our story in hopes that we were telling a part of theirs.

Strangely, in making it real for others, it became real to me for the first time. Not the being unemployed part—that’s been very real for more than two years. It was that Washington, D.C. is a real place, run by real people (“real” being a relative term, but anyway). This democratic process, having seemed abstracted to me, in an instant moved in very close. And I’ll tell you, it’s something to feel that for the first time.

I was surprised to hear such forthright conversations going on between Labor Secretary, Hilda Solis and Sen. Tom Harkin. Solis recited the practical benefits of serving the needs of the unemployed over the wants of the richest 2% of Americans. Tom Harkin maligned the whole idea of the filibuster and the progressive legislation that’s fallen prey to it. So how’s that different from what I expected? Well, I suppose I expected to hear half answers to half questions. I expected to hear what I always here—essentially nothing.

My point (there is one!) is this: We still have a voice. We are the “constituency,” a single body with the power to change minds and policy. Even as we continue to search for work and wait with baited breath and dwindling bank accounts for a deal to be struck in Congress, it’s not too late for one human to let other humans know what they feel is right. We never know exactly where the tipping point will be.

Perhaps the time for doing things in this country because they should be done is over. That all depends. Who’s saying otherwise?