Have you ever been really proud of one of your friends? A friend who did the right thing, even when it was not in her own best interest?
Rep. Julia Carson plans to vote against the war resolution.
That is happening to me this week. I have a friend who is doing the right thing in her job, even though it puts her at risk of losing that job. If she gets fired, she"ll lose something she loves dearly. A lot of people who she helps through her work will be upset, too. Plenty of her co-workers and friends - well-meaning people - are telling her to compromise her beliefs so she can keep her job. It"s for the greater good, they say. My friend"s name is Julia Carson. Her job is serving as Indianapolis" representative to Congress. Her job-risking act is set to occur later this week, when the House of Representatives will be asked to approve the president"s plans to attack Iraq. At this writing, it is not completely clear what form that resolution will take. But it appears that Congress will be asked to give President Bush discretion to launch a unilateral and preemptive war. If this is what she is asked to approve of, Carson won"t go along. She will stand up in the United States Capitol and cast her vote against it. In a letter to her constituents she wrote this week, Carson is questioning why war plans are being made before weapons inspections can be re-started. She is concerned that an attack on Iraq will undermine the struggle against terrorism within our borders. She believes the enormous cost of an invasion can be better spent on bolstering a faltering economy. I don"t write about Carson in these pages very often. I write a lot about issues like affordable housing, access to health care and a clean environment, and she is one of the community"s leading champions of these causes. She is a living legend in our town, smashing through barriers women and people of color have never surmounted before. But I don"t write about Carson much because, where she is concerned, I can"t pretend to any level of objectivity. Carson was a dear friend to me and to my family long before I wrote my first word for NUVO. She held my youngest child as his godmother when he was baptized. I sat beside her hospital bed when she was ill. I have worked hard for her, both as a volunteer and an employee. I have received much affection and support in return. I can"t pretend to write carefully weighed pro-con Julia Carson articles. I first met her across a table in the sterile conference room of a downtown law office. Another lawyer and I had repeatedly sued Carson"s predecessor as Center Township trustee, proving in court that he was failing in his duty to help shelter our homeless clients. When she defeated this trustee, Carson demanded a meeting with us at her lawyer"s office. She stared directly at me and pointed her finger. "My job is to help poor people, and you will never, ever have to sue me to get me to do my job," she said. "If your clients have a problem, see me and I"ll fix it." She kept her promise. Of course, I am just one of many Carson friends. She reaches out to homeless veterans, seniors who can"t afford their medicine and women fleeing abusive partners. Now she is friend to the likely victims of this upcoming war: U.S. servicemen and -women and the 20 million powerless people of Iraq. Thirty-five years ago, when Carson worked in the office of Congressman Andy Jacobs, she would accompany heartbroken Indianapolis families to the airport. There they would receive the flag-draped coffins returning from Vietnam carrying the remains of their sons, husbands, brothers. Like Jacobs, she hated the war and vowed never to stand by and sanction senseless killing. She is keeping her promise. Will she pay a price? National polls show two-thirds of Americans support war on Iraq. In a new and more conservative congressional district, local polls show Carson is in a dead heat with her opponent one month before the election. That opponent supports a war resolution, as do most members of Congress. At this writing, no other member of Indiana"s congressional delegation, Democrat or Republican, has committed to join Carson in opposition to the war. In the weeks before an election, heroes are hard to find. Plenty of party leaders, pollsters and campaign contributors are telling Carson to go ahead and vote for the resolution. It will pass with or without your vote, they say, so why sacrifice yourself? Those folks worry that Carson may lose the election over this vote. Maybe she will lose her job over this war. Honestly, I doubt it. I look at the gifted campaigner who has a 23-0 electoral record over the past three decades, I hear a public softly grumbling about Bush"s plans, and I doubt it. But even if Julia Carson does end up a former congresswoman because of this week"s vote, she will retain more important titles. As a stateswoman and as a friend, she will always be the incumbent.