Journal of a Stormer: Day Two
Posted by John McGlothlin on March 27
When someone in the military notices a problem, they come up with a solution. If necessary, they present this solution to their boss. One of three things then happens:
1. The plan gets approved.
2. The plan gets changed.
3. The plan gets scrapped because the boss is fine with the status quo.
In politics, there is a fourth option:
4. The plan gets obscured/debated/conflated/submerged in larger maneuvering based on party, fundraising, and other things that are unrelated to whether the problem needs solving.
For IAVA’s Team Golf, Monday was an introduction to the fuzzier side of politics. The main lesson from our team’s first Storm the Hill meeting was to prepare for the unexpected and, just as importantly, avoid becoming too cynical once we realize just how challenging it can be to affect change.
We met with the staff of Sen. Mike Enzi of Wyoming, presenting the four pieces of Senate legislation that IAVA is supporting to protect the G.I. Bill and improve job training for veterans. The staff had some interesting points about how a lack of communication within the Department of Education may be contributing to these problems. They also discussed how a different Senator was pursuing a larger bill to fix issues with for-profit higher education.
What we never got was an answer about the legislation IAVA is supporting. Did we simply get caught up in conversation and not ask for a commitment? Or was the conversation itself a way for the staff to avoid giving a straight answer? Even within Team Golf, we weren’t sure which it was. The benefit of advocating for veterans is that people will not be openly hostile to your ideas. But open hostility does have the virtue of being a straight answer.
How much of the conversation turned on partisan themes instead of veterans’ needs? It’s hard to say. The fact that Democrats are sponsoring IAVA-supported Senate legislation was mentioned by the staff of Sen. Enzi, a Republican. That should be irrelevant, especially with Republican members of the House sponsoring similar pieces of legislation. But it is an election year, and one during a particularly polarizing time.
Perhaps it wasn’t a partisan angle – maybe we just got off-topic. Sen. Enzi’s staffers were engaged and congenial when talking with us. The Senator prides himself on working across the aisle (including work on issues far more contentious than veteran’s affairs), and we hope he does so again here and decides in the near future to co-sponsor the legislation we presented.
You don’t want to become so cynical that you distrust an honest person, and there are plenty of honest people in politics. The fact the system is so troubled isn’t necessarily an indictment of everyone in it. But you can’t become so trusting that your good nature gets taken advantage of. And you can’t get distracted from telling your story as a veteran, the problems you’ve seen, and how this legislation can solve them. Learning to walk that line will be an important part of our Storm the Hill experience.
John McGlothlin is from Laurel, MD and he served nine years in the U.S. Army as a paratrooper and Arabic linguist. He deployed twice, first to Iraq with the 101st Airborne and later to Afghanistan with the 173d Airborne. John is participating in 2012 Storm the Hill as part of Team GOLF.
Missed all the action at Storm the Hill 2012? Meet all the Stormers and follow our updates from the week here.
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