Thursday, May 24, 2007

Dating Congress

Posted by Lydia Vickers on May 24th, 2007

Getting that important 1-on-1 with your representative is one of the most satisfying parts of protesting and lobbying, if you ask me. I like to look at it as "dating" congress. Afterall, when you want to spend time with someone who is very busy, someone who is caught in the rush of politics on the Hill, someone who might have forgotten the rest of the world around them - when you want to spend time with that person you must do all sorts of creative things to get their attention.

Hanging around with the awesome women (and some men) who are the CODEPINK family has given me creativity and knowledge combined with passion and politics and topped with a kind of grace and power that is hard to explain. What I mean is that I feel graceful and powerful in front of the most powerful men and women in America.

I started my most recent relationship with my congressman by writing letters. Nice letters explaining how much money our state was losing because of the war and that I appreciated things he's done. When he voted against war money I sent flowers from CODEPINK Tallahassee. After my first meeting with an aide in D.C. I left a framed copy of CODEPINK's hand-stich of the Capitol. When I saw him in the hallways of Congress I made a point to thank him for what he does for Florida. Still no date.

Then the tides turned. He started to vote for war money. "Gotta help the troops" and so on. I changed tactics and stepped it up a bit. Armed with awesome pink women I went straight to his office after the McGovern vote, his vote was "nay". A true opportunity to really stand up against the war and he didn't. It was all I could do to control myself. The pink women with me probably didn't think I was controlling myself, but I promise, I was.

By this time I knew his aide's names in both the D.C. and my local offices and a lot more about my congressman's voting record (thanks to Arizona Liz encouraging getting voting information alllllll of the time). I didn't hesitate to throw names around like we were the best of pals. I ended with Lori's famous "go out on a limb for us, and the grass roots with grow under you to support you". I love that one.

How is this related to dating? Well, for me I spent the first part of my efforts being nice and looking for common ground. This second step is "I don't know if I really like you so much and maybe I'll just go talk to/date the people who vote for you". I really want this meeting so I'm okay with changing tactics to get his attention.

On Thursday a yes vote to fund the war took me over the edge. Time to pull out the stops. I called and e-mailed both offices to find out when was the earliest I could get a meeting. "I represent lots of Floridians who are terribly unhappy with these votes. Americans want our troops out of Iraq. Iraqis want us out of Iraq....." and so on. I really didn't give them time to put me off. I reminded both offices and anyone who would listen that "Americans are angry and Americans are organizing."

I told both offices that I would not only arrive in the D.C. offices with CODEPINK women but that we were organizing CODEPINK Florida and would be glad to come to them in Florida. Let me mention here the power of being allied with CodePINK and, more important, having CodePINK as an ally. CNN called us a "powerful anti-war group" on the afternoon news yesterday. There is nothing like saying "you better stop it or I'm gonna get my sister!"

To my delight my congressman called me, at my house, Friday morning. His scheduler, Jerry, is arranging our meeting in Tallahassee. He spoke to me about his service in Viet Nam and his concern for the troops. I just listened and look forward to explaining exactly what is happening to the troops (because I now know lots of their moms) and how important it is to get them out of there. I will take 4 other reps from peace groups in the area. So now, lots to plan, what to wear (must call Janine in Marin :-D) and so on. I'm back to being nice and getting the conversation started. I hope we have a long and productive relationship. There will be lots to do when we end this war. And, I hope he doesn't mind if I cheat a little. I think it's time to "date" my Senators also.

Peace, Always


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