I was idealistic when I was young. Who isn’t, really? When you’re young and you have parents who care for you, you are led to believe the world is good and it is a safe place. You hear about evil at church, but it seems so abstract and bizarre. My parents were upper middle-class and we belonged to a country club. The summers were spent swimming, sunbathing and sipping mint lemonade on the deck chairs, while I watched old men drive up in golf caddies and Washington politicians and their wives getting tennis lessons. I didn’t have to work during the summers. I read Catcher in the Rye one summer while sitting in the shade by the pool. I laughed at it. Holden Caufield was a loser.
“The best thing, though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right where it was. Nobody’d move. . . . Nobody’d be different. The only thing that would be different would be you.”
That was Holden explaining why he loved the Natural History Museum in New York. That was the only line from the book that stuck with me over the years. Dinosaurs didn’t change. But people changed.
I stopped being a teenage girl and became an Ivy League college student. I studied hard and discovered beer. But I managed to keep up my grades. I got into Harvard Law school like my father. I slept little and made it onto the Law Review. I became a prosecutor. My idealism was wearing down. Dissolving. The world was a hard place. I ran for city council, then state representative, then Congress, and then the Senate. I moved to Washington and became a Republican darling. By that time, I was hard and cold. Compassion had withered like an old flower just as idealism had.
I was approached by a campaign contributor and NRA lobbyist. Kill the education bill that would make college free for millions of students. Kill it and spearhead tax cuts for the wealthy. Also, kill the gun regulation bill. Do it Rebecca. I did it. I led the march for it. Why not? I was nothing inside. My comments to the media were partisan and robotic. I never had to think.
When I attended the UN meeting in New York City I visited the Natural History Museum. The dinosaurs Holden Caufield mentioned were there. Unchanged. But I was changed. Who was I? I didn’t care. Not really. Only at night when I couldn’t sleep and I drank gin to knock me out. This is life. Idealism dies if you don’t protect it. It festers and then one day you stand in front of a crowd to make a speech to wealthy white men and you lance the boil of rotten idealism.
Hello, cynicism. Hello, apathy. Hello…Rebecca…is there anyone inside you?