This I Believe

Madison - Portland, Oregon
Entered on October 9, 2006

I early found myself drawn to politics. One of the clearest memories from when I was little was Election Night, 1992. Amidst confusion and the excited reporters, I cheered for our next President. I was a strong environmentalist at the time. Inscribing a letter with terrible penmanship to President Clinton, asking what he was going to do to keep people from littering and industries from polluting. The Oval Office signature machine sent me a letter. They were doing everything they could, but if I really wanted to help, I would have to do it myself.

“You all need to come watch this.” My Dad said, watching the TV upstairs in the early morning. I’d never seen him turn it on that early before. “This is the worst attack America has ever had.” My Mom screamed in sorrow as the dust flooded the streets around ground zero. I watched the second tower go down, and the 15 minute walk to school that Tuesday, morning changed me as it was changing America.

Not since I was younger had I been so interested in politics that I would go out of my way. My areas of interest were girls and Science. None of us really cared. There was nothing to care about. Nothing until September 11. America fell in lockstep, built up in our pain to reach new heights in our unity. President Bush’s approval rating went up to 90%. We needed our government and so we asked it to lead us.

It wasn’t until the call to war in Iraq that I began to wake up to what was going on. We had passed the Patriot Act, fought a war in Afghanistan, missed Osama Bin Laden, and were about to fight in Iraq to prevent WMD’s from being used against the World. I saw the weapons inspectors pulled out. I watched, growing angry that we were about to attack, the experts saying that nothing was there. I watched as Iraq was invaded and threw balled paper at President Bush on the screen, knowing we were making a huge mistake. The war broke out as I was moving to Germany, my parents going to work for the Department of Defense.

In Germany, I lived with the military. I watched them get shot, demoralized, but still give a “hooah!” everytime their leadership told them things were going well. I wanted to act. I wanted people to act for themselves. The trusting of everything, not looking at why they trusted drove me crazy! I volunteered at Landstuhl Hospital and the critically wounded soldiers made me realize what I had forgot. It does no good to watch and yell. If you really want to help, you have to do it yourself.

I came back to Portland in the heat of 2004. I joined a GOTV group working to get Kerry elected. I watched as people yelled without doing anything. Spending their energy yelling when what they should have been doing was canvassing. I watched them yell, I watched us lose. I watched two years go by as the consequences of wasted air became clear.

I believe in the words written by some staffer in the White House, a PR template for those talking about environmental issues. We’re doing everything we can, but if you really want to help, you have to do it yourself.