In March 2016, the the election was in a mad, unhinged swing and John Oliver was blaring about the election, or he made it increasingly known: “The Holy Shit, Please Make It Stop, Trash Fire, Two-thousand Fuckteen” or “Lady liberty Convenience Store Robbery Gone Wrong Descending into a Hostage Negotiation and She’s Now Demanding a Chopper 2016.”
The cacophony of shouting heads and disappointment after disappointment culminated in a sickening feeling of despair. I felt as if I was watching every friend, family member, and news anchor devolve into talking over one another. Not listening, rather vomiting out posts, op-eds, and angry tweets. More vile scandals, more name-calling, more noise.
One night on a close friend, Alec’s couch, we lamented how objectively easy it was to talk to your governmental representatives, but how no one we knew followed through. Friends and family prefer communicating over Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and even email. Yet, these grandmothers and grandfathers devalued these media forms. It was undeniable that to be really heard you had to communicate outside of social media.
Today, you can call your congressional rep’s office with a tap. That’s simple right? Objectively yes. Unfortunately, we were resigned that almost no people our age feel comfortable talking on the phone. (An investigation for another day.)
This leaves us writing your congressmen and senators and mailing them a letter. Again, not a particularly arduous process. It also has the benefit of not requiring direct human interaction.
Thinking it through, no task outside sentence construction are truly mentally challenging tasks. Yes, you have to Google around for which address you should mail the letter to. Then, you must get that printer out of the closet. Turn it on, install 387mb of drivers, and find some paper, rattle the ink cartridge, and rummage around for an envelope. (Can you make an envelope out of paper?) Finally, printed and sealed with saliva you find yourself in line at Walgreens buying a single stamp for 47¢. Outside, your hunting down a blue post office box you vaguely remember being on that corner by the Food ’N Stuff. Dammit that’s a green one.
If last paragraph sounded draining, you aren’t alone. However, to be clear, none of those steps are truly difficult. (It was even written in a bit of a hyperbolic tone for good measure.)
It’s so much easier to do nothing. It’s easier to say “my voice doesn’t matter” or that “they won’t listen to me.” It’s a cop-out though, and you know it.
Alec and I decided, in-between episodes of Last Week Tonight and fits of calling Comcast about slow internet, that there was something that could be done. He and I could lower the barrier a bit to mailing letters.
So let’s talk about Dear Article One.
We’ve been working in spare moments this year to bring you this website. Fitted with a cute name, pointing back to the first article of the constitution that creates the Senate and the House of Representatives, it’s designed to make it easy to send elected officials physical letters.
Log on and write your note in a text box. Do it from the comfort of anywhere: in line at the coffee shop, on a bus, after hours of watching cable news. When you’re done, we will print, stamp, and mail your letter straight to your representatives: local, state, and federal. We did the work of stringing together a few APIs so it’s digital for you, and paper for them.
Send a note to the one who isn’t fighting for net neutrality. Or send four or five letters full of facts about climate change. Send it to your Senior Senator or Governor or your local comptroller.
It’s a small step to lowering the barrier for average people to write about what they care about. If you can call your reps, call. If you are nervous to call and would otherwise not participate in our political system beyond elections, try this.
Dear Article One isn’t something disruptive, but maybe it can have a tiny hand in leaving the playing field between who gets heard most and who needs to be heard more. (I think we can all agree on that last point.)
I hope you’ll find it useful and simple to use. And if you find yourself not sure of what to say, or how to say it, just remember that these officials are humans who rely on you. Don’t worry about impressing them. They spend so much time trying to look relatable that I’m sure they will love reading your true thoughts.
Update from 2018
After a year, and seeing how the ACLU and other services like ResistBot integrated digital-to-snail-mail services, Alec and I decided to shut down Dear Article One. Good night and thanks for all the stamps!