You can read this series from the beginning here.
I hate to admit it here, but I missed the last two weeks of August going to a corporate meeting in the Bahamas. This sounds like a corrupt and decadent thing for a progressive to do, but at least I come by it honestly. The family trust funds are technically Bahamian corporations, and since I’m now over twenty-one, I am technically a corporate director, and I was legally required, therefore, to spend two weeks at the Atlantis resort attending board meetings. My mother, as she always does, stayed home in Connecticut, protesting the board’s decision not to divest from fossil fuel companies, Israeli-held companies, and companies that contribute to the global obesity crisis. I still don’t see what’s wrong, specifically, with investing in fair-trade coffee companies, but she’s got some complaint about people putting too much half-and-half in their coffee, unless it has to do with the fossil fuels burned to bring the coffee to market. Anyway, she stays home, and everyone else enjoys the resort, so everyone is happy.
I dropped my iPad in the Atlantic the first day, and so I ended up missing all the news about Ferguson. I was very depressed by the whole thing. There were just so many possibilities inherent in the story. You had the concern about police brutality, and the opportunity to re-open the national conversation on race, and to highlight the subtle effects of racism in electoral politics. The visuals–the marchers, the iconic "hands up" image, the military presence police–were just perfect. I also felt a little sad about the young man who had died. There was so much going on there, and I wished I had been in the fight, like a true social justice warrior.
I came back the Tuesday after Labor Day, hoping to find that the office was abuzz with activity over everything that had happened in Missouri. But I was surprised to find it nearly empty. There were no other interns anywhere that I could see. Polly’s desk looked as though it had been cleared out. Carl and Lenny and that kind-of weird guy with the spiky hair weren’t anywhere to be found. I couldn’t understand what had happened. Had the entire office been shut down?
I didn’t know what else to do, so I scavenged a couple of K-cups from Carl’s old desk and made coffee. I sat down in the empty break room and played a little 2048 on my phone. I knew I should have been working, but I didn’t have any idea what I should be working on. We had always done everything in the office as a collective, working on orders from upstairs. Doing something on my own, as an individual, was something that I hadn’t really ever done before, and I wasn’t sure I knew how. I knew I could get away with taking a few random potshots at the Koch brothers, but if it wasn’t in service of a higher agenda, it wouldn’t mean very much.
I was on my third cup of coffee when my Aunt Joan walked in.
"There you are," she said. "I’ve been looking for you."
I managed to stand up without overturning the table or spilling my coffee. Aunt Joan wasn’t my aunt–wasn’t anybody’s aunt, as far as I knew. She had gone to Yale at the same time as my mother had been there, and they were close friends. My mother had stayed at Yale and was busy plotting what she called a Trotskyite/feminist counter-revolution to take power away from the patriarchal/Stalinist chokehold on the English Department. Aunt Joan had come to Washington and had established herself as a power broker. No one had ever told me exactly what it was that a power broker did, although I had an idea that I was about to find out.
"Hi there, Aunt Joan," I said. "What a nice surprise."
"Don’t call me that here," she said. "I’m glad to see you made it. Are you Ready?"
I just caught the stress on that last word. "I’m Ready," I said.
"Good. You would not believe who they had working here," she said. "There was some intern who had commandeered an office, and had a Joe Biden bobblehead on her desk, if you can believe that. She said she was in charge of things around here."
"And what did you do?" I asked, feeling bad about Polly all of a sudden.
"I told her I was in charge now. And I am. At least temporarily, while we get the new support structure set up. Are you still planning on staying on as an intern?"
"Yes," I said. That seemed like the best thing to say.
"Good. We need someone here who’s reliable. Someone we can trust. Someone who’s Ready."
"And the other interns?" I asked.
"They weren’t Ready. I don’t need to spell that out for you, do I?"
"No," I said.
"Your mother told me she didn’t think you were totally stupid," Aunt Joan said. "We’ll get you some more interns–people who are reliable, people who we can trust, people who won’t go bolting off after Elizabeth Warren. People who are Ready."
"But what does that mean for me today?" I asked. "What are you looking for in terms of social media? Memes? Facebook posts?"
"You have to use your judgment and be careful," she said. "Officially, we’re not part of the campaign–not that there is a campaign, yet, you understand. Officially, we can’t advocate for any candidate, no matter how highly qualified, Unofficially, of course, anything we can do to boost progressive and feminist values, we will do, keeping in mind who the best-qualified and most experienced candidate is to advance those values."
"I understand that," I said. "I know what the IRS rules are."
"I would not spend a lot of time worrying about IRS enforcement if I were you," Aunt Joan said.
"Of course not," I said. "But in terms of specific topics, what should I be working on? Ferguson?"
"This organization is not Ready to talk about Ferguson," she said.
"Right," I said, trying to keep the disappointment out of my voice. "What about ISIS?"
"This organization is not Ready to talk about the Administration’s current foreign policy."
I could see her growing impatient with me. "Corporate inversions?"
"Former Secretary Clinton is giving a speech at the Social Awareness Committee of the American Academy of Corporate Tax Professionals in October," she said. "You’ll know more after that. In fact, I’ll send you her schedule for the next three months so you know what to avoid."
"So what are we Ready to talk about?" I asked.
"Push back on anything negative about the Family, of course." I didn’t have to ask her who she was talking about. "Go after Christie, Walker, Rubio, Perry, all those guys–and don’t forget that they are guys. Not so much on Jeb, because he’s our best hope. Other than that, business as usual. Go after Limbaugh. Go after Fox News. Post the odd cat video when things go slack. Is that clear?"
"Crystal," I said.
"This organization is officially Ready," Aunt Joan said. "We’re counting on you to make sure it stays that way. You’re my guy on the inside. Anything you see that isn’t one-hundred-ten-percent Ready, you need to let me know so we can do something about it. Okay? So get to work."
"I will," I said. "Thank you."
"No, thank you," Aunt Joan said. "I’ll be sure to let your mother know what a good job you’re doing. I know she’s proud of you."
"I know, too," I said. She would have been prouder of me if I had gotten Dad to divest the family money out of SodaStream, but they’d beaten estimates last quarter. I decided not to bring that up.
Aunt Joan gave me a friendly little hug and then bustled upstairs, probably to make sure everything was Ready there, too. I took my coffee into Polly’s office, which was now my office. I didn’t find anything in there except a whole drawer full of ibuprofen capsules. I switched on one of the TVs over to Fox News and started watching. I was Ready now, whether I wanted to be or not, and I wanted to make a difference if I still could.