liveonearth (liveonearth) wrote,

In Favor of Letter Writing as Political Activism

Are you American? Or a United States citizen, more specifically? Have you ever written a real paper letter to your representative in Congress? Or to a Senator? If yes, what fired you up enough to get you to write? How long ago was it? Do you ever go publicly protest, and hold a sign? Been out recently? Do you fill out petitions online? Do you vote? Where do you draw the line in your efforts to influence the course of this nation?

It appears to me that most of us do very little. I fill out a few petitions, and send a little bit of money sometimes, and put some effort into researching my votes, but that's about it. I haven't been putting any real energy into the project. I feel like congress should take care of this stuff for me, that I'm no expert and somebody more expert than me should be making the decisions. I don't really want to OWN my part in a democracy because it's a whole lot of work. But as our nation suffers increasing challenges, people are noticing, and activism seems to be on the rise. I was heartened when I heard support for Audit the Fed on an Occupy youtube video. The new activism is less party oriented than at any time in my political consciousness. There is a chance that we might be able to get something done.

A lot of people have been out camping in cities for the betterment of America lately. Another lot of people were out there saying we need to shrink government. So far it's not clear if these efforts accomplished anything. The established powers try to claim credit for and sway over these mobs, but that has not been demonstrated. The problem in standing on stress corners and shouting your message is that it probably doesn't get to the person who really needs to hear it, and your one-liner sign might get photographed and put on the web, but it won't explain your full thinking and experience and reasons for believing as you do. You can do that in an email, or a letter. Emails are too easily deleted and too cheaply stored: there's a high likelihood that you'll get counted on a tally somewhere and sent a canned reply, instead of getting a real human to read what you really think.

There's something about taking a pen to page, and sending that piece of paper using a stamp by the still-no-defunct US Postal Service. That piece of paper that you held in your hands, spilled coffee on and labored over until your hand ached, is the same piece of paper that someone on the other end will pull from the envelope and read. It's personal. It's real. It's better than email or shouting or signs or petitions for getting your point across. And if you are able to have your say in few enough words, and wittily enough, more than one person might read your letter. If you draw a picture, or use brightly colored paper, or do something else to make your letters unique, you will get more attention. And if you repeatedly send letters to the same congressman* and make yourself familiar, eventually you may even rate a personal reply. Who knows, one day your congressman may become so human that he actually has a conversation with you. That would be democracy.

When I was a kid my father was an environmental activist. He tried to protect rivers from being dammed by the Tennessee Valley Authority, and stop coal mines from making our rain acid, and many other things. His efforts failed as often as they succeeded, but he taught me a lot. I learned that congressmen are people too, with sweaty handshakes and wrinkled suits. He took me to meetings and had me stand up and say why the mountains were important to me. When I was in college I was the environmental chair of my outing club. I'd talk about local environmental concerns at our meetings, and organize letter writing campaigns complete with draft letter, paper, envelope, pen and stamp, so that anyone who agreed with me could sit down and write their words, and have their letter on the way the next day. I don't think anybody does that anymore. Which is why I think letters are probably even more powerful now than they were then.

Congressional offices field a huge amount of electronic messages, but relatively few letters. And if you ask them, they'll tell you: letters have a greater impact. Letters actually get read. Duplicated electronic letters get scanned to see which form they are, or who originated them, and added to a tally. So I propose that we ought to write letters, now, to tell our congress what we really want, and what we're going to do about it.

The thing about democracy is that it fails if people are not involved, and it also fails if people are not educated. We have been failing for a long time, and the failure is getting severe. Kind of like congestive heart failure, we're still alive as a democracy, but we can't breathe at night, and our ankles are so swollen that we can't get our shoes on to march properly. America is dying. Democracy is incapacitated by OUR inactivity. I'm no better than you. I haven't been doing much. I make a post on here now and then, but there's a glut of electronic verbiage here on the internet, and barely anyone reads me. I know that. I'm not doing diddley. But I'd like to. And I just might. And I'm hoping to induce you to join me.

Here is where you can get the contact info for your congresspeople* by zip code:

And the cause that I can currently get behind is the effort to require that the Federal Reserve be audited by congress, so that we can see what happens to all that paper money that we print. In case you're interested, you can read all about it on my "federal reserve" tag, or you can just write to your congressman. Tell them this: We want them to cosponsor H.R. 459/S, the "Audit the Fed" bill. We want them to seek roll call votes on the bill at every opportunity. We want to pass this bill, or failing that, to know exactly who is against it. Because that is who we need to replace in congress next.

This effort is not contrary to liberal or environmental interests. Many of my friends fault my fondness for Ron Paul because being libertarian, he is not interested in regulating corporate pollution. My counterpoint is that he is also not interested in giving them handouts, or letting them have free run of our public resources for their own profit. Our current system gives them handouts at the same time that it attempts to regulate emissions. It's foolish, confused, and needs fixing. But the point with Audit the Fed is that our government is printing money and we don't even know what it's being spent on! We the people have a right to know. And just having those payouts become public knowledge will change the game. Guaranteed.

*PC people please forgive my generic use of the word "man" to represent all humanity. I am a woman and I am not insensitive to the concern of sexism. However I do find that the requirements of being PC interfere with smooth writing and communication, and that is why I do not substitute the word "person" for man, or use s/he or his/her routinely. Sometimes I simply default to female pronouns in an act of rebellion, however the vast majority of our public servants are, and have been, male and so I feel it is fair to default to the male in this case.
Tags: activism, america, citizenship, conservatism, democracy, federal reserve, letters, liberals, libertarians, politics, ron paul

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