Uniting Grace in the Shadows of Wednesday
Image courtesy of The Wall Street Journal
By Abby Anger
Like so many of my fellow Catholic University students, I had the opportunity to intern at Capitol Hill, and watching Wednesday’s events unfold on national television, I was struck by a profound and personal sadness. The daily office duties of a Congressional Intern can sometimes be rather mundane – answering phone calls, arranging tours, and running errands. However, the opportunity to work in the Capitol building, the heart of our country’s government, was a gift that has always overshadowed his apparent subordinate role.
The Capitol Building perfectly captures our democracy and the people it serves – from the art of high school students hanging in staff tunnels to the majesty of the rotunda dome to the unique snacks in each constituent office. As you work there, you are constantly reminded of the seriousness of democracy, the personal challenge of determining your place in it, and the gift this form of government offers – the ability to serve your community in a unique human way. Watching rioters smash windows and stumble across the Senate floor was so deeply personal, for it was not a stately building that was vandalized, but our country’s home was desecrated.
I interned in Congress in 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 these two internships, they often assume that the ideological differences in these offices must have been impossible to reconcile, but each office on Capitol Hill is united in a common mission – to serve its constituents. The day-to-day work of these congressional offices is not newsworthy; instead, they help retirees work under Medicare, listen to individual concerns about the productivity of the local mail office, or help enroll families in the SNAP program. I’ve helped answer all of these questions, lead investigators, and work with real people in Republican and Democratic offices. As I watched the protesters sit down and vandalize the offices of Congress, I thought of the young staff member or intern who allegedly answered a phone call and helped a real person in his district at home.
Wednesday’s violence demands a calculation of how we understand our democracy. During my time in the two congressional offices, the political party was irrelevant to the shared daily work – serving others. We must shift the understanding of our democracy away from false and partisan narratives and toward the real work being done by members of Congress and women, countless staff and interns on behalf of the American people. Recognizing service as the common thread sewn through every office on the Capitol will serve as a unifying grace in the computationally difficult days that await our nation.