Talking Past Congress

by Deck Deckert

August 26, 2002


I've been talking to my congress critters a lot recently. I haven't done that in years.

A few decades ago, when the illusion of democracy was more compelling, I regularly wrote my senators and representatives, sharing my views about the important issues of the day.

On occasion, I even contacted the White House. In one of my more inspired efforts, I wrote Nixon during his impeachment travails the following letter, en toto:

Dear President Nixon:
For God's sake -- and the country's -- resign.
Deck Deckert

No sense wasting time on long involved logical and persuasive letters when you know that they aren't going to actually read them, just categorize them and count them. Or sometimes, I suspect, just weigh them. 'We've got 140 pounds of approval letters and only 41 pounds of disapproval, sir.'

At some point in the past few decades, however, it became clear that if a letter wasn't accompanied by a check with at least three zeroes on it -- four zeroes was much better -- then it was a waste of time to send it. All evidence suggested that representatives, senators and White House staffers no longer much cared what the average citizen had to say, unless he was a "campaign contributor," a substantial one.

But the events since 9/11 compelled me to try again. Over the past several months, I have contacted my congress people several times. And it's true that I always got replies. The replies were form letters, of course. To be sure the form letters attributed to me things I didn't say, but I received a reply to every letter.

For example, I wrote that I thought U.S. aid to Israel should be severely curtailed until Israeli settlers were removed from Palestinian land. In response, both my senators sent me nearly identical form letters telling me they shared my concern for Palestinian attacks on Israelis and were working to cut off all aid for PLO Chairman Arafat.

Since they had misunderstood or ignored my real concerns, I tried again, this time by writing boldly in red felt tip right on their letters: "End aid to Israel until the settlers are withdrawn."

I returned their letters but never did hear from them again on that issue. What a surprise. I tried again with a letter about the War on Terrorism. What I said was the following:

Dear Senator:

This insanity must stop now!

Is Congress, are YOU, going to allow Bush to bring us eternal war against the whole world?

The 'War on Terrorism' is essentially a fraud on the American people that takes up where the Cold War left off.

* It is a power grab by the federal government.

* It is a power grab by the presidency at the expense of Congress, weakening the separation of powers between the three branches our brilliant forefathers had put into place.

* It trashes the spirit and sometimes the letter of the Bill of Rights.

* It is enriching the defense contractors, the bomb makers, at the expense of the poor and the middle class.

* It is fostering a spirit of animosity toward Americans of Middle Eastern ancestry.

* It is making the U.S. a rogue nation, a country that decides unilaterally what country it will wage war against, what innocent people it will kill, no matter how many treaties we break, no matter how immoral the assault.

* It is turning the U.S. into a dangerously militarized nation.

The 'War on Terrorism' is no longer, if it ever was, a just cause. We are not trying to find the 9-11 terrorists to bring them to justice. Instead, it is a war being waged against the Constitution and the rights and welfare of the American people.

We must stop this now. YOU must stop this now.

Deck Deckert

In response, I received letters from my two senators and my representative thanking me for contacting them. They all seemed to think I was praising them for their efforts to continue the war. Sen. Bob Graham's letter, for example, stated proudly that: "I strongly support the actions the President has taken." And he added: "This is not a war that we can win by being on the defensive. We have to go on the offensive."

Somehow I don't think he really read my letter.

So I tried again. Just recently I wrote the following:

Dear Senator Graham:

There has been a coup in the U.S. and if Congress doesn't react soon, it will become totally irrelevant and might as well disband.

A president who was put in place by sleight of hand is destroying Constitutional government while Congress sits idly by, offering no more resistance to White House fiats than the Soviet parliament did to the fiats of Soviet dictators.

The president is assuming the authority and power of an emperor, even to the point of promising to go to war without reason or morality, without Constitutional authority, and in defiance of numerous international treaties. And Congress does nothing but ask petulantly how much it is going to cost.

It is nearly a year since 9/11 and Congress has yet to hold any really significant hearings on what went wrong, how it happened, who was responsible, and what can be done to prevent future attacks. Instead Congress has passed numerous laws that allow the White House to suspend civil rights, savage Afghanistan weddings, and set up a new department with the stink of the Gestapo about it.

For God's sake, get some backbone, show some common sense, and start working for the people who elected you, not defense contractors and a dictatorial White House.

For starters -- NO WAR ON IRAQ!

Deck Deckert

Maybe that one will work. Maybe someone will actually read it and respond to it.

And maybe someday pigs will fly.

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Deck Deckert has spent nearly two decades as copy editor, wire editor and news editor at several metropolitan newspapers, including the Miami Herald and Miami News, before becoming a freelance writer. His articles and stories on everything from alligator farming to UFOs have appeared in numerous U.S. publications. He has written two young adult novels under a pen name, and co-authored a novel about the NATO war on Yugoslavia, Letters from the Fire, with Alma Hromic.

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Deck Deckert on Swans

Essays published in 2002 | 2001


Published August 26, 2002
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