Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Your Quiet Voice In Our Government: Who Your Representatives Are and How To Contact Them

While it's everyone's hobby to complain about the government, most Americans at heart still trust our own representatives and tend not to communicate with them. Perhaps we assume they share our values and aspirations for our town, state and country. Perhaps we fear too much involvement would interfere with the peace of our lives. Perhaps we simply have too little time and have to prioritize for our own responsibilities first.

After all, that is why we elect people to lead our government: so that one of our peers does have the dedicated responsibility to tend to those matters and to devote time, attention and talent to good governance.

But something has changed just in the past 10 years. Technology now provides tools that enable very small groups to make such a loud noise that it can drown out the majority. Whereas previously, responsible newspapers would not even publish anonymous letters to the editor, now one person with an agenda can - anonymously or under false names - send out literally
thousands of emails, or post to dozens of websites. They can make 3 people look as though they speak for thousands.

Groupies used to follow bands around the country, driving to concert after concert. Now, in addition to the sincere person who attends a rally in their own town or travels a single time to the Capitol, political groupies may use their vacation days and make a hobby of flying everywhere one is scheduled to swell the numbers of protesters, picking up their signs and T-shirts du jour as they get off the plane.

Our representatives are smart people. They know that these things happen, and they should know to discount some of this frenzy.

But what they don't know, unless we politely tell them, is what the ordinary, normally quiet person thinks about all this. What the ordinary, minding-our-own-business, average person wants the representative to do about these issues.

And that is a new responsibility that we all bear. To quietly speak our piece, so that our representatives can go forth armed with a balanced understanding of who their constituants are and the different points of view we have.

There are simple ways to be sure your elected representatives know and respect your opinions, without turning into a crank or taking up too much time. We can just be ourselves, and write a short letter in our own words, and mail it at the post office: "Dear Sir, I hope you will (oppose)(support)_________. You should know that I believe ________ is ________. Thank you for your service and I appreciate your attention. Sincerely, [name], [address], [town]

Or we can make a single, brief phone call when there is an issue we have an opinion on, being cheerful and pleasant when we ask the person who answers if they can pleast let our representative know that we hope he will support or oppose __________. Thank the person for their work, wish them a good day, and that is it.

We don't have to be controversial. We don't have to be mean or rude or loud. We don't have to explain why we feel the way we do. All we have to do is send a polite, short note or brief message, and then go on about our business.

There are some non-partisan links in my sidebar under "Other Sites of Interest" that might be helpful, if you are interested in learning who your representatives are:

Write Your Elected Officials: Find Names and Addresses here

Who Represents Me? Find your Texas Legislators

Tracking the US Congress: Factual Non-Partisan Information

And you know what - I bet your representatives would also love to receive a thank you note every so often too. :-)

PS The vintage Liberty Bell Canister in the photo was made by House of Webster, a pottery in Eastland Texas that did all sorts of cute canisters and sold them filled with jams and preserves. It was my favorite find this week, and an inspiration piece for a new project I'll talk about later! The flowers are from one of our apricot trees. I sure hope the frost this week didn't bite all of them. The bees were having a field day gathering pollen from them yesterday!

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