A few people have asked me, by email, having seen my posts about the anti-war march, how they can participate in these sorts of things. I’ve coupled that question with a conversation that Natasha and I had after the march, as we discussed Cindy Sheehan’s exhortation to “shut down the city”, and that neither of us thought that was the right answer now. And so I have two answers to the general question of “What can I do?”, one of which is a general answer, and one quite specific, something that I encourage every one of you to do as soon as you can.
For the general answer of how to participate in the movement to reclaim our country and its constitution: simply become aware of what’s being done, and include yourself in it. Join Common Cause, a watchdog organization that aims to “hold power accountable.” Consider joining MoveOn.org, a combination of a Political Action Committee and a civil action group. Watch their web sites, and those of other organizations such as A.N.S.W.E.R. and TroopsOutNow.org, and when they have an event or a campaign you can participate in, do it. Volunteer to help, if you have the time — these organizations are always looking for help. Help register voters, canvass for your favourite candidates, help event organizers, stuff envelopes... whatever you can do.
Do pay attention to the broader goals and associations of the organizations, if you’re considering joining or volunteering. They’re not all the same (I’ve mentioned before, for instance, that I don’t like A.N.S.W.E.R., though I’m happy to participate in their larger events). Make sure they match your own goals and political sensibilities.
More specifically, what I think we can all do, and what we all have a responsibility to do, it to use our first-amendment right to petition our government. We each have a congressional representative (yes, even those in DC and the territories have non-voting representatives). Each representative has an office in Washington and one or more offices back home. Pick one. Phone them up. Make an appointment, and talk, face to face, with your representative or a senior staffer. Make your desires heard.
Not sure how to contact your representative? Go to the US House of Representatives web site, look up your representative (at the top of the page), and find out: just stick in your zip code, then click on the rep’s web site — mine’s is http://johnhall.house.gov/, for example. Each one will have information about the offices and how to contact them. Send email comments if you like (they all have web forms for that), but don’t stop there. It’s important to sit down, face to face, and talk.
Prepare an outline of what you want to say. Be focused — don’t show up with a litany, but pick three or four points that are most important to you, and make sure you discuss those thoroughly. Make it clear where you stand, and what you want your representative to do about it. For example:
- Impeach the president. Even at this point, and even if we don’t have the votes to convict, it’s important to open impeachment proceedings and bring charges against the administration for its abuse of power and other illegal activities.
- Wrap up the war in Iraq. Set a schedule that defines a short time frame in which to turn things over to the Iraqis and bring our troops home. Do not start any wars elsewhere.
- Provide health insurance for every US citizen. No exceptions; everyone must be covered, and it just be easy to understand and use. No American should have to choose between health care and food or housing.
This is your chance to make a difference. Imagine if everyone who attended Saturday’s march — estimated at 10,000 or more — were to sit in his or her representative’s office some time in the next two months. They can ignore a bunch of people walking down Pennsylvania Avenue, but that... that is not a force that can be ignored.