Citizen Participation: Communication & Powerful Consumption

Image: one citizen letter is counted as 2,000 citizen voices.Today I received a mailer from Congressional Representative Earl Blumenauer. I heard the contraption sounds of the mail man pushing the delivery through the metal slot in our front door and the clatter of it falling to the hardwood floor.  I consider it the best piece of mail I have received all year.
Representative Blumenauer is smart to take the time to let his constituents know that their voice is key to his work. In my experience, most folks don’t believe that we have any power left.  Consistently over the past twenty years, Congressional Representatives and Senators from across Oregon have responded to my letters with personal stories, information, and appreciation.  Twice during that time period of letter-writing I received a form letter. One was from then President George W. Bush and the other came from the office of a Republican Senator, typed by an assistant.
The mailing I got today called ME to action, asking that I contribute my voice to the efforts underway to end corporate “personhood,” reform Congress due to insider trading, address Justice Clarence Thomas’ ethics violations in the Supreme Court, reform Wall Street with full implementation and enforcement of the new financial regulations, and restore and rebuild the country through things like a Water Trust Fund and reinstatement of the Superfund Tax.
Regardless of what you may believe based on mainstream corporate media, the commercialized American landscape, recent and on-going moves toward increasing corporate dominance over ecosystems and communities, or the hopelessness and cynicism of family and friends, our voices are the power of We The People. We still hold the right to express them with our elected officials, and, as the band Boards of Canada powerfully state in a song about censorship of their music, “Defend your Constitutionally-protected rights. No one else will do it for you.
There are a number of inspiring and telling examples of citizen voices making vital change or protecting crucial regulations.  When organic standards went under attack in 1998, the FDA wanted to include toxic sludge and other inappropriate things that constituted a wake up call garnering 300,000 citizen voices to ring out and halt the move to ruin real food in this country.  In 2008 Northern California residents spoke up and by doing so successfully put a stop to the spray of sterility-causing chemicals over multiple counties.  The thing to remember is that we are the ones with the power under the current governmental structure, and it is still our choices which allow or stop the multi-national corporations from making moves that threaten the biosphere and thus our health and freedom.
In addition to writing a bi-monthly, that is twice a month, letter to each of your Representatives in Congress and each of your Senators (you can write one letter and modify it slightly for each official), you have another powerful right to say no to atrocities and abuses of natural resources, animals, food, and people through your spending.  Every dollar you spend either supports or boycotts actions on the part of the transnationals.  The internet is still uncensored to a great degree (let’s keep it that way!), and it is easy to trace ownership of brands. For instance, in looking for skin care products that do not contain dangerous chemical additives, I found Aubrey Organics. I was surprised to find that almost all other lines of skin care have additives that have been scientifically found to cause serious diseases and complications in the human body.  But now I essentially vote for pure ingredients and boycott toxins simply by putting my dollars where my convictions are. I believe we all have a basic right to health, and that basic body care should not come with unnecessary chemicals that suppress our immune systems.
I extend this challenge to you: consider why you may have not written to a government official in the past when an issue made you angry or afraid. Compose a simple, straight-forward message sharing your thoughts about the issue and asking for an update on the status of the issue, and put it in the mail to your local Representatives and Senators. This gives the official the job (it is their job to represent us) of investing their attention toward the issue. Simply adjust the names and addresses on the letter to make sure each of your elected officials gets to hear your opinions, ideas, and requests.  One thing that I have learned works is to maintain a respectful yet confident tone when writing to representative government. It can be as simple as using appropriate titles, such as ‘Honorable Representative (then their name),’ and signing your name, ‘Sincerely.’ This sets a receptive and open tone to the relationship.
American government wants and needs to hear from us. Earl Blumenauer, one of my local Reps. in Congress, actively sought my voice and that of the rest of his constituency. I wonder how many households recycled the mailer he sent out today, and how many concerned citizens seized the opportunity to participate and keep democracy alive?
“Remember, a small group of concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”