This has been an unbelievable week for me here in the District of Columbia. The week kicked off with Tax Day where I was once again reminded officially that ‘taxation without representation’ is alive and well the communities living in the shadows of the US Capitol. On Tuesday, a coalition of District citizens walked the Halls of Congress meeting with 29 House offices and 10 Senate offices to ask for equality, through admission as the 51st state in the Union, New Columbia. And then today, after beginning disappointed in the Senate’s failure to pass sensible (dare I say weak by my standards) gun laws I received an email from my union, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), asking me to contact ‘my 2 Senators from the District of Columbia’ about a few issues.
I’m a statehood activist, I think about this issue all the time but this week our inequality has really been thrust in my face. On Monday, my wife and I handed over our hard earned money to 535 people who I had no role in electing so that they can figure out how to spend our money best. I’m not opposed to taxes I believe in them, I believe in government helping a civil society to function properly and to look out for those in need. I do, however, want to have a say over how that money should be spent. I don’t believe in Louie Gohmert’s old bill to exempt us from federal taxes for a whole host of reasons but fundamentally it’s about me wanting to finally be an equal American citizen. To be whole in this still perfecting democracy and to be able to look at my daughter with pride when she turns 18 so that she can vote for what and who she believes in. We in the District are tired of being the exception to and in America we just want to be like everyone else. We just want to be equal nothing more nothing less.
On Tuesday, we walked the Halls of Congress and we met with staffers who asked great questions, shared some of our frustrations, and who generally wanted to learn more about statehood. But Congress is not moved to act easily. We had several dozen volunteers in the House and Senate on Tuesday while at the same time 90% of the American people were saying to the Senate ‘pass improved gun legislation.’ And yet, the Senate failed to pass the bills, they failed to listen to the pressure of the vast majority of the American people and so what does that me for our cause? It means we have to keep working both harder and smarter. We need to motivate and mobilize the 632,000 people directly affected by this and we need to motivate and mobilize our friends and neighbors in the 50 states. But it’s not going to be easy, if it were it would have been accomplished 212 years ago.
On Wednesday, bummed that the Senate failed to pass gun legislation I thought to myself, ‘wouldn’t it have been nice to have had two Senators I voted for on the floor of the Senate.’ And as I thought about that my phone vibrated letting me know I had an email. I looked at my inbox and discovered the third kick to my democracy loving gut in three days. My union, AFGE, wants me to contact ‘my 2 Senators from the District of Columbia’ in the upcoming congressional recess (see here: AFGE Letter). While I know this is just a form letter sent out via some computer program it’s still an indignity. The union is headquartered in the District, surely they should know better. The union has a lot of members from and working in the District, surely they should know better, but yet even in the AFGE’s computer system our status in America is incorrect. Even a computer program can’t understand our status because it makes no sense.
As Thursday dawns and Friday looms I’m hoping for a great end of the week. Maybe we’ll get a few more cosponsors on the statehood bill based on our efforts in the House and the Senate, maybe a few District citizens will contact me wanting to join the statehood movement, and maybe my union will issue an apology to the thousands of members it just slighted through a computer glitch that asked us to contact Senators we’ve never had but have long desired. I’m a cynical optimist and the last three days reinforced both traits in me but still optimism moves me forward and forward goes the cause of statehood for those 632,000 American who already fulfill the responsibilities of citizenship but are denied its most fundamental right.
We will prevail.