On Calling Congress

Posted by on Sep 5, 2017 in environment, Unmowed Blog | 0 comments

I pick up the phone reluctantly. The slim rectangle seems heavy as lead. I don’t want to do this.

I hate talking on the phone. I even get sweaty palms when ordering a pizza. My voice squeaks. I sound like an idiot. Um, pepperoni, no, er, sausage, I guess... How much harder to call a Senator, a powerful remote figure in faraway Washington. I can’t do it.

But, I soldier on. I’ll just get an answering machine, right, how bad can it be? I dial the number. (Used to be, we dialed numbers on an actual dial, with long pauses of satisfying clicks during which to collect your thoughts. Now it’s all just beep beep beep.) It rings. Finally a voice answers: “Senator *&%^&’s office.”

I panic. It’s not a machine, it’s an actual human being—perhaps the Senator in person? No, it’s a staffer, probably an overworked, unpaid intern. The voice is youthful; I wonder, how do they feel about what’s happening to their country? Are they satisfied? Uneasy? Utterly terrified but hiding it well?

I take a deep breath. I’ve planned what to say, even written it down. Not a lot—three sentences. All this awfulness is not their fault, I can’t blame it on this young disembodied voice. I use a lot of pleases and thank yous.

Yes! It’s done! I did it. I called my elected official.

Now what?

I read an interesting article the other day. The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication issued a report this spring, which states that only 12% of registered voters say they have contacted an elected official during the past year. More than three in four registered voters (78%) point out that nobody has ever asked them to contact elected officials.

According to Mr. Yale, “Most registered voters say they don’t contact elected officials because they’re not an activist (62%), they don’t know which elected officials to contact (52%), or they wouldn’t know what to say (51%).”

Anyway. I’m not an activist, but I do have more calls to make. No one is going to ask me to do it, I’m on my own. I have to take the time, make the time, be stern with myself. Honestly, it’s worse than dieting. I’m going to be dialing (beeping) Senators. Representatives. The Army Corps of Engineers, to share a few of my thoughts about pipelines. The White House (almost always busy, but worth a try every now and then.) The Secretary of the Interior, to mention a few facts about National Monuments. And local folks too: state senators. The mayor. The town clerk.

One call made. Only about a thousand more to go.



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