Dear Kaitlin, I can't remember a time when government and politics were not an important part of my life. The activities of government were frequent topics of conversation around the dinner table. This was a great relief for me, as it saved me from lectures on my inadequate behavior. Such interests seemed perfectly normal to me. I imagined that other families were the same.
When I was old enough to know how atypical this interest was, I began to wonder why we were so different from others. Perhaps it resulted from the fact that my father worked for the Department of Agriculture at their experimental station in Beltsville MD. The fact that his government salary was allowing us to live in a nice house, to enjoy fried chicken every Sunday after church when so many others were homeless and hungry didn't disturb him. But he seemed to apply different standards to the new programs designed to employ the men who had lost everything in the great depression.
I have a clear memory of driving along a dusty dirt road on a miserably hot summer day and encountering a number of WPA workers digging ditches between the road and the surrounding fields. Some of the men were leaning on their shovels, perhaps just resting a moment to wipe away the sweat. Others were bent over their shovels, their bodies covered with the red clay they were removing from the ditches. My father made a most unkind comment about how lazy these workers were, and how venal the government was for wasting taxpayers money on them. Then he speeded up just a bit to increase the size of the plume of dust we were spreading over the unfortunate laborers. I slid down in my seat, hoping in that way to disconnect myself from my father's harsh judgments.
We lived very close to Washington DC, so we often took visiters on the grand tour of the official seat of our government. I thought the Mall was a magical and wonderous place. For one little girl, the buildings seemed both enormous and grand. Washington was clearly the most wonderful city in the world. When the sun shone on the white marble of the Capital, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, I could only believe that this was the way Heaven must look. I felt very privleged to live so near the center of the universe.
Perhaps my direct connection to government, or the place that I happened to live had nothing to do with my interest in the issues of government. But whatever the reason, that interest began long ago and has never diminished, as future posts will establish.