Spring break of 1996, my sophomore year at Grinnell, I interned at the DC office of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, better known as ACORN. I had heard of ACORN somehow or other, but most people didn't hear about it until 2009 when there was a manufactured political scandal. This was long before that. Here are some things I learned:
- Washington DC is a great place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there. The Smithsonian and other tourist attractions are amazing, but the cost of living is very high and a lot of people are homeless. Plus they have no representation in Congress, which is BS.
- There is always demand for someone to build a Web site. The Web was brand new then, and at Grinnell I had built the first sites for half a dozen different student organizations. But here was a real organization with a serious reputation, eager to let me build whatever I could. It was very flattering and encouraging for me.
- One person's "community organizer" is another person's "rabble rouser." ACORN was already deeply unpopular among the people they opposed because their tactics were sometimes ... unrefined. They were particularly proud of storming city council meetings, for example, packing so many people into the room that the fire chief had to close the meeting down.