OutPower

It’s Hot: Nature and Calls with Constituents – Matthew Thomas

OUT ON THE HILL is the official blog of the Victory Congressional Interns. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of LGBTQ Victory Institute. Learn more about the internship at victoryinstitute.org/vci

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A wise poet from New Zealand once said, “I hate the winter, can’t stand the cold.” Clearly Lorde has never been to Washington, D.C. in the summer.

Standing in the sun for 0.5 seconds is too much, especially with the humidity and the multiple layers of business professionalism. Early in the internship program, I advised folks who have never been to Washington, D.C. to carry a fan because one thing about living in this city is that you’re going to start sweating the moment you step outside. As this program approaches its end, I am happy to report that many folks now carry and share colorful Pride fans, small cardboard cut-outs, and other make-shift fans to bear this D.C. heat.

Despite the incredibly hot weather and the return of my least favorite pest (mosquitos), a group of us from the Victory Congressional Internship cohort went kayaking recently. For a moment, I believed that Lorde might have been on to something about the summer: hanging with your friends, eating yummy food, being in the sun, and getting fresh air are all helpful ways to mitigate the stressful work days we have all been having. However, while I was on the water, I was surrounded by massive concrete bridges and buildings, a reminder that American capitalism and industry will always intrude upon nature to sustain itself. I was overwhelmed by how “American” this kayaking trip was: floating pieces of trash in the river, thick concrete columns reaching out of the water to hold infrastructure for public transit, and the sound of rushing traffic on the highway. With each human action, what becomes of our rivers and the living things that rely on these water sources for life? In the future, will the demands for more connectivity result in the destruction of other natural spaces in the area? What will be left?

The reality is that the U.S. can make more of an effort to design cities with infrastructure that is environmentally friendly and not destructive of the Earth. The truth is that this summer in Washington, D.C. is unbearable because of global warming and the lack of substantial government action to address this catastrophic problem. After countless calls with people from all over the country, I have realized that there is a deep disconnect between what people believe and the gravity of our situation. 

One of my favorite intern tasks is talking to people on the phone. Many of them are constituents calling to ask the Representative to cosponsor a bill or to thank him for his work in their district. Countless are not so friendly. Dozens of people spew violent and homophobic insults at the Representative, something they feel extra empowered to do once they realize a queer person is on the phone taking their message. However, at the same time, I feel empowered that their first point of contact with the office is a queer intern — it forces many people to hang up, now scared to leave a homophobic message to someone who can talk back.

Recently, many of the calls have included misinformation about global warming, oftentimes mixed with apocalyptic, Christian-fundamentalist logic. People believe that our increasingly hot summers are natural occurrences signaling the end of times, not the result of human actions and lack of care towards our natural spaces and resources. As global warming threatens our planet, I am worried that this increase in misinformation about climate change is working in conjunction with other misinformation, particularly about our political system and LGBTQ+ folks. In the near future, without action, those most impacted by the devastating impacts of global warming will be queer folks, women, and other socially vulnerable communities. 

Now is the time to act. As I reflect upon my experiences during this congressional internship, I know we are in good hands with this next generation of queer leaders. Some of us are studying fields to better understand how to address these issues through policy, while others are committed to working outside the government through intersectional coalitions. All of us are outraged. Generations before created and continue to ignore this problem, leaving it upon us.

My advice: call your representative and senators to demand action! Maybe a Victory Congressional Intern (like me) will answer the phone!