“Hello, we are three of Sen. Tillis’ constituents, and we have some concerns about the recent gag orders placed on the EPA and USDA. We were hoping to talk with someone who could answer some questions for us about the senator’s thoughts on the matter?”
“Sure, we recommend you call our Washington, D.C. office, which handles legislative affairs. We are a field office for constituent services. But I will be happy to take down your concerns and pass them on to the senator.”
I eat lunch most days with the same people. After we finish our meal, we pull out a sheet of paper to take notes and put a phone in the center of the table. Then we start calling. We call an office for each of our senators and congressman. The above dialogue is a sample, but our topics change daily. We have expressed concerns about questions we would like asked at the confirmation hearings for the Trump cabinet and, as obvious from our example, expressed concern about the sanctity of the First Amendment. We do this because democracy is a participatory sport, not a spectator sport. Our only real hope for getting voices heard in Washington is through our legislators. We must communicate our concerns to them if we want our messages to be considered.
It is an interesting experience to do this daily with a group of friends. To begin with, we bring different concerns, experiences and issues to the table. One of my companions primarily makes a living on the water; the other has a strong science background. I am by far the one who has to rein in emotions—remaining calm and polite is essential to have a conversation. That is what we are seeking: conversation.
Staffers have answered questions and directed us to newspaper stories quoting a legislator on the record on topics we have raised. We have found—with one exception of getting shunted to voicemail by Sen. Burr’s Washington office—every staffer to be kind, polite and responsive. They take notes, at times have offered to have the legislator follow up via letter or email, and consistently invite us to call back and continue to make our concerns known.
So what do we call to talk about? Well, there are so many alarming instances happening right now, and it changes daily. Primarily, we began discussing the confirmation hearings. But the silencing of the EPA and USDA has raised a red flag among us, so we have been talking a lot about the importance of protecting the First Amendment.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” —Edmund Burke
In 1788 NC voted at Hillsborough not to ratify the Constitution without a written Bill of Rights. Dissenters argued rights were implied and conferred in the Constitution. But our delegates held firm. We just had fought the Revolutionary War because our implied rights were not protected. We wanted a document that expressed and guaranteed rights and protections of all Americans, not just the land-owning elite. The Bill of Rights is NC’s gift to the country. It is our legacy. We need our NC legislators to pick up the torch and defend a legacy and the sanctity of the Constitution.
Take a look at the “Oath of Office” for senators and congressional representatives:
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.”
This is a domestic threat to the Constitution of the United States. We need our legislators to publicly call for the preservation of the First Amendment. Freedom of the Press and access to information were not negotiable for North Carolinians in 1788, and they cannot be in 2017. Though I have frequently disagreed with our senators and congressmen, I have not doubted their integrity. I do believe they took their oaths in good faith. Now is their time to prove it.
But, dear readers, your concerns might not be the same as mine. The important point is you speak to your elected representatives. Do you have a long commute? Use it as time to call, and engage in the dialogue about the direction of our country. Do you have a mid-afternoon smoke break? Make a call then. If you can find a partner to do this with everyday, it is wonderful support: You can remind each other, stay on topic, witness the call, and bring accountability.
Which reminds me: Are you registered to vote? As one friend pointed out, the vote must be important, otherwise the efforts to gerrymander and restrict the vote would be unnecessary. In NC we are having another election this fall because of a federal court ruling directing NC to redraw legislative districts and hold new elections—after finding the present districts were drawn unconstitutionally and used race to determine representation. This is the opportunity to vote in a new state legislature. So, please, vote! Your voice is integral to our country—and people have sacrificed their lives that you could exercise this privilege.
I understand it can feel futile and there is a sense politicians in office don’t care. But if we don’t make an effort to make our voices heard, democracy becomes a moot point.
1) Pick a specific issue and 20 minutes a day to commit to calling our congressional representatives. They are our only voice in the Legislature—we must make sure they know what our concerns are. Be polite, ask for the name of the person you are speaking with and take notes.
2) Update your voter registration.
3) Vote in the mid-term election to get a new Congress.
4) Vote in the NC General Assembly election to get a new NCGA and bring NC back into the 21st Century.
185 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: (202) 224-6342
9300 Harris Corners Pkwy, Ste. 170
Charlotte, NC 28269
1694 E. Arlington Blvd., Ste. B
Greenville, NC 27858
Phone: (252) 329-0371
1 Historic Courthouse Sq., Ste. 112
Hendersonville, NC 28792
Phone: (828) 693-8750
1840 Eastchester Dr., Ste. 200
High Point, NC 27265
Phone: (336) 885-0685
310 New Bern Ave., Ste. 122
Raleigh, NC 27601
Phone: (919) 856-4630
151 Patton Avenue
Asheville, NC 28801
Phone: (828) 350-2437
100 Coast Line Street
Rocky Mount, NC 27804
Phone: (252) 977-9522
*Meetings by appointment only
217 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
P: (202) 224-3154
2000 W First St., Ste. 508
Winston-Salem, NC 27104
Phone: (800) 685-8916
Phone: (336) 631-5125
201 N. Front St., Ste. 809
Wilmington, NC 28401
Phone: (888) 848-1833
Phone: (910) 251-1058
Congressman David Rouzer
Washington, DC Office
424 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: (202) 225-2731
New Hanover County Office
230 Government Center Dr. Ste 113
Wilmington, NC 28403
Phone: (910) 395-0202
Congressman Walter Jones
Washington, DC Office
2333 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Jacksonville NC Office
234 NW Corridor Blvd., Rm. 313B
Jacksonville, NC 28540