Inside the Halls of Power – José “Che Che” Turrubiartez

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

Walking through the Capitol building can be a very intimidating experience, and I was really nervous at first.  I had been to Washington D.C. before, but I had never set foot in the Capitol building.  As a Mexican-American, gay man of color, I did not know what to make about the building where decisions to take away my rights, and grant me some of them back, had been made.  It felt a lot like dating a guy who is the most amazing person in the world one day, and then the next day is the biggest jerk.  You know, a complicated and unhealthy relationship, but with government.  Oftentimes, when I stepped foot inside the Capitol building I heard one of the tour guides tell visitors: “This is yours, remember that, this building stands as a symbol of our democracy, a democracy that belongs to you and it is your job to make sure that it lasts.”  His comments resonate with me for several reasons: The first one being that he did not ask people if they were citizens of this country.  Maybe it’s because he assumes everyone is, but I like to think otherwise.  The United States continues to be a beacon of hope to many around the world, and I believe the tour guide understands that, so he is intentional about this specific comment.  The second comment that resonates with me is about making it last.  I am a firm believer, now more than ever, that it is up to a younger group of individuals, such as myself, to keep our democracy alive.  I very apparent that many of our elected officials are over the age of sixty, and these officials do not seem as invested in the future as they should be.  This concerns me because I feel that they govern and create policies that will never affect them.

In the Capitol building, I am constantly reminded of how out-of-touch our elected officials are with the real world.  I am also made aware of how much power has been handed to them, and quite honestly, it is bothersome that they take advantage of that power and use it to only advance their own selfish agenda.  I understand that most elected officials mean well, however meaning well is not enough for most people like me.  People who worry about rent, student debt, health care and having a livable wage to pay for all of that.  You know, passing legislation that helps with these worries would be nice.  Most of these thoughts regularly come to me as I make my way to the office building where I spend most of my time.  There are a number of buildings were most of the actual work and writing of legislation gets done.  I happen to work in one of the Senate buildings called the Hart Office Building.  This is where I spend my time writing memos, talking to staffers, and engaging with constituents over the phone.  As an intern for Senator Bob Menendez from New Jersey, the ranking member on the Foreign Relations Committee, I am able to attend a lot of briefings and events.  I have always had an interest in foreign policy, so this truly is exciting.  What I learned from this though is that foreign relations is very dense and complicated – there is never one solution to just “fix it all.”

With each passing day, I am made more aware of just how big government is, and how we all play an important role in it. Our country, our democracy, is bigger than all of us and we need to remember that. We are the United States of America for a reason, and we are united in a common goal – to secure our fundamental human rights and the pursuit of happiness for everyone.