Remembering my own “letter writing” days

In my previous post, I encouraged people who supported the Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act to contact their Congressmen directly. That got me to thinking about my own experiences of contacting my Congressman. To be honest, I can’t say as I blame people who choose not to do that, given my experiences.

Back in 2001, I subscribed to the ACLU’s political action mailing list. Every so often (not quite once a week), I’d receive a note from them talking about some legislation that had come up and encouraged me to contact my representatives to voice my opinion. They even offered a service on their website where I could put in where I lived, and they would prepare a boilerplate message that I could edit (I usually didn’t) and then submit to them. Their site would then email or fax it to the appropriate representatives based on my home address. It was all quite handy, and allowed me to do something without putting a lot of effort into it. (What can I say? I’m lazy.)

For the most part, I’d never hear another thing about it. Well, at least that was the case with my one Senator and the House member that represented my district. However, my other senator (or more likely, someone in his office) always made a point of sending me back a reply letter. That particular senator was none other than the recently ousted Rick Santorum.

Anyone who knows anything about Rick Santorum (and if you don’t know anything about him, you must live even further under the rock than I do) shouldn’t be surprised that the letter was invariably a nicely phrased missive to say, “Thanks for writing, but I’m going to do the exact opposite of what you want.” This isn’t entirely surprising, as it’s a hazard of being a liberally minded individual who has the misfortune of being “represented” by a conservative — and insane, as more recent events have shown — senator. However, the experience was rather demoralizing for me. After receiving the third or fourth such letter, I began to wonder why I bothered even writing my senator. After all, it was clear that my little letters weren’t going to change his mind. So I eventually gave up. And I haven’t written a letter to any representative since.

Today, I sit here thinking about that. I find myself wondering if it’s time to give it another try. After all, I’m now in a different state, and I could stand to get a little more involved in such things. Though if I do decide to do it again, I think I may actually try writing my letters for myself. One of the things I struggled with over my experiences with Senator Santorum was that I didn’t feel I could complain too much about his obvious boilerplate response that practically ignored my concerns when I didn’t even take the time to express those concerns in my own word. So that’s something I feel I must address if I ever give the letter-writing process another try.

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