Before I tell you what I was up to today and move on to Step 2 of the blueprint, here’s a question from one of my subscribers:
“There are countries where people have experienced genocide and other hardships way worse than what we’re going through. Are you sure we should call this a dictatorship?”
No, I’m not sure. On a technicality, this could <just> be fascism, “a government that exalts nation and often race above the individual” headed by a dictatorial individual who forcibly suppresses opposition.
UC Berkley Professor Robert Reich offers suggestions for how to manage talking about this, including the recommendation to replace T’s surname with “The GOP Administration” every time you mention him. Historically speaking, the GOP is behaving like a regime. It’s more effective to put the pressure on them. Either way, we’re witnessing the precursors to and/or direct dictatorial and fascist behaviors on a daily basis.
If you’re like me, you’re part of the 3.5%, so we’re not sitting on our hands while we wait to see what happens next. (For more reasons about why I’m using the d-word, see Jim Powell’s How Dictators Come To Power In A Democracy from Forbes magazine way back in 2013.)
Step 2: Letters of Opposition or Support
Last week, I introduced Gene Sharp’s blueprint for removing a dictator with a list of 198 methods of nonviolent action and persuasion. Step 2 is listed as one of the “formal” actions.
Wait – number 2? Does letter-writing actually work?
If it’s part of a wider strategy, YES.
Since June, my local coffee shop has been hosting a weekly letter-writing campaign, so today I stopped by to help. When I walked in, every table was filled. As I was looking for a seat, a woman who stopped by during her lunch break offered me her seat, along with a pen, a stack of postcards, and a suggested script.
Today’s focus was on getting out the vote for the midterms by sending hand-written postcards from community members to neighbors. The event was organized by a local organization connected to the state-wide coalition Turn PA Blue.
Here’s a bit of the buzz:
If your community hosts letter-writing events, go whenever you can – and keep showing up. I found mine on Facebook, so check around to see if your state has something similar. It felt good to have an outlet for my outrage, and it was inspiring to be around people who felt the same.
Until today, all of my letter-writing has been a solo act, so if you can’t find anything local just yet, here are the ACLU’s tips on writing to your representatives.
- Keep it brief: Letters should never be longer than one page, and should be limited to one issue. Legislative aides read many letters on many issues in a day, so your letter should be as concise as possible.
- State Who You Are and What You Want Up Front: In the first paragraph, tell your legislators that you are a constituent and identify the issue about which you are writing. If your letters pertains to a specific piece of legislation, it helps to identify it by its bill number (e.g. H.R. ____ or S. _____).
- Hit your three most important points: Choose the three strongest points that will be most effective in persuading legislators to support your position and flesh them out.
- Personalize your letter: Tell your elected official why this legislation matters in his community or state. If you have one, include a personal story that shows how this issue affects you and your family. A constituent’s personal stories can be the very persuasive as your legislator shapes his or her position.
- Personalize your relationship: Have you ever voted for this elected official? Have you ever contributed time or money to his or her campaign? Are you familiar with her through any business or personal relationship? If so, tell your elected official or his staff person. The closer your legislator feels to you, the more powerful your argument is likely to be.
- You are the Expert: Remember that your legislator’s job is to represent you. You should be courteous and to the point, but don’t be afraid to take a firm position. Remember that often your elected official may know no more about a given issue than you do.You can get the contact information for your Members of Congress at Congress.org.
If you need more fuel for your fire, read this.
Your voice matters. Every word counts.