Times and Places
AOC, the freshman class and recognizing time and place
Ok. I don’t live in New York. I’ve only ever visited the State a handful of times — New York City only twice as I recall. For the last 31 years, I’ve been a resident of Maryland and the DC suburbs. Before that I spent 11 years in the U.S. Army, moving around Europe and across the U.S. I believe I moved 9 times in my eleven years, from Germany to Maryland, Kansas and New Mexico among other places. And in the interest of full disclosure, I was born and raised in Southern West Virginia and graduated from West Virginia University.
I’ve seen a lot of times and places. My life experiences, like yours, are very much tied to when and where they occurred. Life, when I left school in 1976 was very much different than today no matter where you were. And similarly, life in West Virginia was very much different from Maryland, even though they are neighboring States. Certainly, life in Germany in the late 1970s was very different than anywhere else I’ve ever been. I remember no speed limits on autobahns, quaint, small towns with brick streets, houses and shops that have stood for many generations proudly maintained by their residents. I remember being fascinated by castles and ruins of earlier centuries. The age and maturity of the society were evident everywhere and in stark contrast to the U.S.
America’s size dwarfs the smaller countries of Europe. Historically there has been plenty of room to spread out here. If you didn’t like the climate in the Northeast, there was the Southwest or Gulf Coast, offering qualitatively different weather and lifestyle. I remember visiting our California offices for a job I had several years ago. It was my first trip to California and I was amazed at the differences in the work culture from the East Coast. In San Diego, no one was in a hurry, as we always were in DC. There was no constant ringing of phones. Everyone enjoyed long lunch breaks. The differences were quite dramatic. The differences in climate, attitudes, accents, as well as the general pace of life in the various regions of America, have been well chronicled.
Regardless of where I lived and continuing through my years, I’ve followed the national news closely. I supposed this is largely due to my service in the Military, as a federal government contractor and resident of the DC area. And like most everyone I know, I’m deeply disturbed by Trump’s election and the near-daily corruption of our federal government in front of our very eyes. Finally, I was able to take some hope in the election results of the 2018 mid-terms. I readily confess to being a white, male, baby boomer. Still, it was genuinely exciting to see all the young, diverse new members of Congress who were elected in November. As a result, I became very interested in following the burgeoning career of the freshman Representative from the NY 14 district.
She doesn’t represent me in Congress. But I have become a big fan of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or AOC as she is frequently referred to. I feel like she’s pitching for me as well as her NY constituents. She has clearly stood out among all her peers since her stunning upset victory over ten-term incumbent Congressman, Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley. She is young, genuine, enthusiastic, articulate, intelligent and fun. Sadly there are a large number of Congressmen and Congresswomen who possess none of these attributes. It seems she has been running a hundred miles an hour ever since getting out of bed the day after the election. She’s everywhere. You’ll see her on CNN and MSNBC. She’s on the evening news. She’s all over twitter and probably many other places that I don’t notice because I’m not plugged into. When you listen to her in action, in committee hearings and on the floor of the House, you can’t fail to notice her wisdom and grasp of the issues and clear passion for good government and making this country a better place to live.
I find myself wondering how such a young, inexperienced person becomes so integrated into the highest levels of government decision making so quickly. I wonder how she is able to command such a presence and wield such influence. I think how sad it would be if she were not able to be successfully reelected. But I trust it was harder to unseat an incumbent than to hang onto the seat. Perhaps she’s riding the wave of history.
I do believe there are moments in life when it is possible to turn the path of history IF we recognize them in-the-moment. For much later, through the lens of history, that moment is lost. The ability for actions to write history is so very time sensitive. These moments are likely not actual ticks of the clock, but more frequently months, days or hours when the cosmic tumblers are in just the right alignment.
In that hot summer of 1776, we had a few rare individuals who looked at the world around them and saw that a great risk was necessary. Who knows what would have happened if the Contential Congress had debated the questions of Independence for another year. Would we be here today?
In the early years of the 1860s, we were blessed with a President in office who had the vision and moral compass to lead the country through it’s darkest time. Were it not for Lincoln, would our country be what it is today?
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, we were blessed again with people across the South and elsewhere who risked their very lives to stand up for equality and human dignity. They had the vision and the courage to push past limits and change minds. What would our country have been like these last 60 years without them? What if the Civil Rights Act of 1964 were not signed?
These individuals saw the rare moment. They recognized the circumstances and pressures that demanded timely action. They didn’t succumb to political expediency. There were more important considerations. They recognized the historic moment in which they lived. And they took action rather than waiting and hoping someone or something else would solve the problem.
I’d like to think that the young, genuine, enthusiastic, articulate, intelligent and fun freshman class of the US House of Representatives might be among those who recognize a critical point in our history right here in 2019. Perhaps, together with young, newly elected legislators and officials across the country in city, county, and state governments, our country can be turned back to the path which once made it the envy of the world. I’d like to think that.
I hope you’re also a fan of AOC. If not, you should look for her on social media. Look for her and her colleagues in the news — they’ll be there. Listen to what they are talking about. Write to your congressman but especially also to your Senators. Tell them this just might be a turning point for our country. And they better dump political expediency by the side of the road and act now. Now is a critical time. This is one of those moments. If we wait, it will be lost and we’ll never get it back.