Your Difference: finding your voice

Some of us feel like this on the phone. sky

There are a lot of pressures right now to make phone calls to our leaders, both in the Alaska State Legislature and in the U.S. Congress. If you are making those calls – thank you! And, keep it up!

Today’s article is for those of us struggling to make calls, for whatever reason.

Feeling helpless
When I read the Indivisible Guide the first time, I came away thinking that the only useful way to communicate with Congresspeople or Legislators was to call them. That was a problem for me, but for a while I really tried – and was really miserable.

Then I just stopped. I mean, calling was awful, and I was being told that writing was useless.

But, shouldn’t people be allowed – encouraged! – to participate in their governance in ways that make sense for them?

I sure think so! So, here are some techniques that may help you to be more involved, without triggering your anxiety.  And if these don’t work for you, I want  you to remember that you aren’t broken: the system is.

If the system weren’t broken, your needs, preferences, and opinions would be actively solicited, with a variety of options for easy participation.

Option 1: Getting physical
As one source put it when I googled “useful letter to congress”:

People who think members of the U.S. Congress pay little or no attention to constituent mail are just plain wrong. Concise, well thought out personal letters are one of the most effective ways Americans have of influencing law-makers. [source]

Every piece of paper that goes to any office has to be physically handled by a staff person. That staffer is not able to do other work because, in the case of a letter, they have to open, categorize, catalog, and possibly even archive a piece of mail. Or if it’s a fax, they have to do all of that except opening an envelope. W.

The key to making an impact? Write to the right person, keep it short, one topic per letter, and above all, use your own words.

Incidentally, ever since I read this piece at Digby’s Blog (one of my favorite political corners of the internet), I have been reconsidering the humble fax. She pointed out that faxes that arrived during off hours (weekends, nights) would zoom out of the machine and end up on the floor, garnering even more attention.

I poked into it more and found Resistbot, a free service that turns your text messages into faxes. It appears to be legit, as it’s been reported on by several places, including the extraordinarily on-point reporting in Teen Vogue.

Option 2: Letter to the editor
I wrote here about how to write a letter to the editor. You can do this any time of year, but it is especially effective just before a specific piece of legislation is about to come to a vote.

Why write to the editor? It’s free, it gets noticed by staffers at politicians’ offices, and it has the capacity to influence other people to act.

Knowing why can help
Self-knowledge is a powerful thing, and if you are one of us non-callers, it might help to know what is keeping you from the phone. It also will help if you think about what you can do – developing a workaround that gets the job done without making you miserable means knowing both your challenges and your strengths.

I hope that you find your voice,
– Mary

Your Difference is a series by that focuses on supporting people in their activism. 

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