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Essays

Effecting change through letter writing:
    -- a concerned citizen challenges you!

By Lee Metcalf

February 19, 2006

Dear friends,

If you are like me, you have never felt more disconnected from and disillusioned by a political process that continues to act in complete contrast to the wishes and views of the American people. The majority of Americans were opposed and remain in opposition to the invasion of Iraq, favor some form of universal health care, support the strengthening of worker's right, and would like a reduction in the pentagon budget (now over a half trillion dollars-much of it large subsidies to multi-billion dollar corporations) with this money being put into social programs such as education. Yet in election after election neither of the two major parties puts forth a candidate who offers these popular concerns as part of their platform and these serious matters remain "off-limits" in the painfully contrived and carefully scripted staging that passes for debates in this country. What kind of Democracy is that? In light of this it is not surprising that the public has become cynical with regards to politics, resigning themselves to the fact that "you can't fight city hall" and choosing to throw their passion into something worthy of their time.

Well, I suggest that there is something that we can do to combat this arrogant and contemptuous treatment by officials that rely on our votes to remain in office, but increasingly ignore our voice. We can write letters. Letter writing is becoming a lost art form, but don't underestimate the power that a well written letter can have in working towards positive change. True, the current corporate stranglehold on politics will require far more than an onslaught of angry letters from the citizenry to release its death-grip on democracy, but before you can take it to the streets, so to speak, you have to organize and let your voice known. Here is what I am proposing.

Make a pact to write 5 letters a month (positive, negative, complaint, outraged, educational, thank you etc...) to people, organizations, agencies or companies, community or nationally based, that you feel are in a position to make a difference, any difference...small, large or otherwise. They can be letters:

1. to your city councilman or representative or congressman or president
2. to your local school board
3. to the editorial section of the newspaper
4. to a local business that exhibits blindly nationalistic displays (excessive flags, pro-war slogans etc…)
5. to a radio or television executive, talk show host, news reporter or anchor
6. of support for someone who is working toward positive change
7. to a company, complaining about one of their products or their environmental practices
8. to an elderly person who is unable to get out much anymore

In short, get involved! Express yourself to any person or group that needs to hear your voice. (Remember, the squeaky wheel gets the oil!) Furthermore, challenge your friends (those you think might actually do it) to do the same and to solicit the people in their life. Try to adopt a big-picture mentality and do not get frustrated if you don't get the immediate response for which you are looking. The important thing is to keep churning them out and recruiting others to do the same.

One other note, I would stress mailed letters, rather than emails. An actual letter seems more personal than any of the millions of emails that fly around the web a dime a dozen. Still, perhaps in certain situations the email would be the more effective tact. In any event, while it may seem a little pie-in-the-sky to think that a letter can have any impact, remember that it is really one of the most effective recourses available with which to have our voice heard-short of putting your body against the lever of the machine...and I don't see most people ready to do that yet.

Thanks for your time and consideration. Let me know what you think…write me!

Lee Metcalf
100 Cooper Street #5B
New York, NY 10034

email: LeeMetcalf66@earthlink.net

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Lee Metcalf is a jazz musician (guitarist) and resides in New York City. He has a Masters in Jazz Performance from SUNY Purchase, performs in and around the Tri-State area, and teaches both privately and at various institutions.

Download a recent letter Lee wrote to Howard Dean, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Here's a taste of what's in the letter:

"The days when the Democratic Party can expect the left to reflexively offer their voting support irrespective of a track record that suggest nothing but contempt and disrespect for their electorate are over. Our eyes have come open and we now know too much. With an American public that proves to be liberal on most issues in poll after poll, I urge you to adopt a strategy that seeks to harness this immense progressive potential, providing an honest, clear, and intelligent alternative to the Republican agenda. I hope that you can see that without this commitment to a truly democratic platform the Democrats are doomed to be left wondering how they squandered yet another golden opportunity, while ever increasing numbers of potential supporters divorce themselves from the entire process, convinced that the battle cry “democracy for America” rings hollow."

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