Monday, September 28, 2009

Speak Truth to Bullshit

....I suppose I should be saving these. I've been getting uppity lately, and it seems worth documenting for a rainy day. It's probably basically shouting in the dark, but I've been doing it just the same: I've been replying to the form emails from my various representatives. Generally only if they say "Keep in touch," or give me a text box. But sometimes if they even just don't say "do-not-reply."


Well, I've been getting a lot of anathema by email, lately. I think it's mostly because I sent a letter and got sucked into the CA Representatives mailing list, and some reps have identified my location as likely to bear fruit. Unfortunately, I can't unsubscribe from individual assemblypeople without losing the whole list (and I do appreciate some updates), so I just keep getting it.

Perhaps there's something wrong with me that I keep reading it. I know better than to read comments online (mostly), or to seek out blogs. But I suppose this is different: this is something people in a position of some power and with some control over the flow of information are flooding the inboxes of the unsuspecting with.

This is higher stakes, somehow.

Unfortunately, I'm missing my favorite snagged opportunity for uppityism, lately, the one that started me on the Fussbucket jag. I'd gotten a charming push-poll survey from Daryll Issa in Orange County trying to woo me to his version of health care reform, i.e. forbidding public option, resisting socializing any aspect, resisting any regulation, and creating a bigger cookie for programs and corps already causing problems, etc. For context: in my ideal world, we'd have fully socialized single-payer, but I'm willing to start with the co-op option and regulation, I really am.

You know those phone surveys where they phrase a question like, "Do you support allowing [mundane thing x having nothing to do with kittens] bearing in mind it will certainly lead to the torture and murder of 4000 kittens according to [unrelated person y who will lose money if mundane thing x comes to pass]?" And you don't know how to answer, because you support mundane thing x (but not the torture and murder of kittens)? This was one of those. I slogged through and picked the loaded-with-bad-connotations answers responsibly, and cringed a lot.

But then it had a Text Box. Something like, "What would you like to see me (as a representative) do? What are your thoughts on my plan?"

So I told him.

I'm not aggressive; I don't seek out opportunities to piss on people's cornflakes. But being completely irresponsible, propagandizing in difficult times, fear/hate-mongering, and then asking me what I think about it? What if he wants to use the results of that paragon-of-bad-statistics-taking survey to make a point?

I mean, really.

This probably solidified my place on the mailing list, just by responding. But then again, maybe it bumped me off of it. We can but hope.

A day or so after that, I got a helpful letter from California Assemblyman Bill Berryhill (context: I actually actively campaigned for his opponent, doing volunteer work in his office). He was warning me about a dangerous bill that would early-parole non-violent offenders from our prison system (I'm a prison abolitionist at heart, and definitely a rehab-over-punishment enthusiast). He asked for my support, to protect our communities. The letter literally included statistics a non-sociological, nonscientific, non-research body produced guestimating the number of extra crimes, and violent felonies specifically, that would be committed if we released NONVIOLENT OFFENDERS ONLY. Because, clearly, letting out the leukemia patients that got snagged in the raid on the (legal-in-CA) medical marijuana clinic is going to lead to a spike in gun violence. Bear in mind also that our prisons are in violation of every law on the book, most cells occupied at double or triple capacity, etc, and we really cannot sustain them as-is.

....So I replied.

I DO support the early release of non-violent offenders.  We're keeping prisoners in a state of appalling overcrowding, which is immoral, illegal, and inhumane.  We will soon spend more to imprison people than we do to get them higher education.  If we did more with education and rehabilitation and less with misguided punitive measures, the recidivism rate would go down.  

Your email is misleading and offensive, and fear-mongering at best.  Drop three-strikes and overly harsh terms for victimless crimes.  EDUCATE.  THAT is how to make our communities safer and reduce prison overcrowding and overspending.

Thank you,

And then I rested a little easier, content with my conscience. I continued on my merry way, dreaming my dreamy-dreams.

Today, I got another (this one my own fault, I suppose), and from the US House of Reps. A week or so ago I'd sent a form letter to my local congressman asking him to support the repeal of DOMA (the "Defense of Marriage Act," which inexplicably made it legal to ignore the full faith and credit clause in the Constitution, despite the fact that nothing else, not even pursuing serial murderers, gets this benefit). As I do.

I expected either no response (since I'm in a hotbed of Marriage=One Man + One Woman activism and Rep. Radanovich is all over that mess), or a form letter thanking me for my input but-we-disagree. I've gotten plenty of those before. Some of the fancier ones have come on paper with lip-service to some key issue, even if the sender and I are diametrically opposed on how to deal with it.

It means that at least some overworked staffer either skimmed the note for my position, or an email reader program did. It got stacked in an unofficial litmus test pile, somewhere. Some sites even let you scroll down a menu with "issue" and "Support/Oppose?" so it knows which form letter to send in response, and presumably to keep a tally.

Rep. Radanovich (or rather, his office) sent Chris and I identical form letters back to our form letters that, I shit you not, told us to "Rest assured, I will continue to work with my colleagues in the 111th Congress to strengthen the family unit and protect marriage in its traditional form." It was a letter comforting us that he, too, wants to protect hetero-only marriage, and telling us how instrumental he's going to be in supporting a re-up of a Protection of Marriage bid, and telling us how dangerous he knows same-sex marriage can be, and what a good idea it was to buck full faith and credit to protect states from having to respect the laws of other states.

...They don't even have the decency to install a good form-reader, or else to come up with the blank "Thank you for your input"? Seriously?

....So I replied:

My husband and I both sent letters encouraging the repeal of DOMA, NOT support of the Marriage Protection Act (and both received identical copies of this letter in response).  I didn't expect a personalized letter (my original wasn't, either, and I apologize for that), but I do suggest you at least tailor an alternate form letter for those who've sent you opposition, instead of support.  Sending out something that essentially says, "Don't worry, I've got your back by supporting something you find hateful and disingenuous" does not inspire confidence in the constituency.  I will not, for instance, "rest assured" after your letter--your so-called Marriage Protection Act would not "strengthen the family unit and protect marriage," as you say, but would instead DENY protections to families and couples.  See what I mean?

Please at least work up a blank for disagreement.  It doesn't even need to be issue-specific.  "Thank you for your input on this important issue" or, "We differ on this important issue, but your input in the democratic process is valued" would be, while less personalized, far less insulting than being told to rest assured you'd do exactly the opposite of what would let me rest assured.

Thank you for considering this.


...I think the (clear) indication that no one will actually read this email released me of my sense of required politeness and sincerity. I don't suppose anyone will be bothered by this letter, then, either.

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