A Letter to Congress

I wrote a letter to my representatives a few days ago. I don’t do so often. It honestly feels a little futile. Does anyone really listen? I considered just sending a one line letter, “Please support the Humanitarian Assistance Facilitation Act (H.R 3526).” I know Mitch McConnell receives way too many letters to read himself. I pictured some staff person quickly scanning hundreds of letters and making small tick marks on some chart of issues, “For” or “Against.” Maybe, if there is some vote coming up, Mitch will ask his staff, “What are people saying about this one?” One line might be sufficient and would probably be a relief to some staff person who did not want to wade through paragraphs of detail and passion.

I like history. John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Harry Truman all wrote letters, which gives us glimpses into our past and the ways they thought. Eleanor Roosevelt wrote so many letters to FDR that he told her to limit it to three a day. So I joined the great letter writers of history, went to Open Congress, searched out H.R.3526, and wrote my letter to both of my senators and my congressman. It is really a cool system.

I resisted the logic of a one-line letter. Honestly, it seemed a little rude, more like a command than a letter. So I carefully reasoned out why I think my representatives should support the Humanitarian Assistance Facilitation Act. The bill would allow peacemakers and humanitarian workers to talk to people like Hamas. Currently, it is illegal. I don’t think we can resolve issues or generate good will unless we are talking, so I wrote.

Maybe, just maybe, my line of logic would be so compelling that some staff person would say, “Mitch, you should probably pay attention to this one.”

Naïve? Sure. Overly optimistic? Guilty. My glass is more than half full. I like to think of it as faith. Others may consider it delusional. But we live in a representative democracy where the House is to represent our views and the Senate is to represent the broader good of the states. How can they represent us if they don’t know what we are thinking?

In a few days, I received a reply from The Honorable Senator McConnell and my half-full glass began to leak. Apparently, the senator’s staff people have been replaced with a computer that scans the letters for key words. After telling me how happy “he” was for this opportunity to interact “he” said, “Your letter specifically mentioned the conflict between Israel and Hamas.” I had not mentioned Israel at all, though I did use Hamas as an example of people on the Treasury Department’s terrorists list. Then Mitch’s computer spit out two pages of things Mitch had done to support Israel. It was totally off point. If there were any ticks in any columns, mine was in some column saying I was concerned about Israel.

Some say Washington is out of touch. I don’t know. At least they do a lot of polls, right? (Maybe I should not have thrown away that Neilson television viewing habits poll the other day.) Writing thoughtful letters, to at least some representatives, seems to be of little value. I’m still waiting on a response from Rand Paul and John Yarmuth.

At least we can still vote, right?