After a month, It’s hard to keep calling Mitch McConnell, and not just because it’s hard to get through. After weeks of calling without a single breadcrumb of a result, it feels silly to call, as every call I’ve ever made to him or letter I’ve written to him seems. I keep writing and here’s why.
We keep writing because it’s the right thing to do. Sometimes we resist injustice by protesting in the streets; sometimes we resist by attending a City Council meeting; sometimes we resist by teaching a child how to do basic math. In between elections in a democracy, we have small quotidian ways to participate in our republic. Most are local; most are direct. Every time a child I teach snags the concept of how to add multiples of ten, something I teach almost every day, I’m living democracy because I’m promoting knowledge and thought. Every time I connect a parent to a community resource, I’m living democracy because I’m promoting warmth and full bellies. All those things we do to promote justice in our towns represent human caring. But how do we work our representative democracy in between elections? We talk with our representatives. We call them and write them because it’s all we’ve got. I certainly did not ask for Mitch McConnell to represent me, but he does. So I’m going to keep calling him and letting him know what I think about that representation. I may want to opt out of our system every time my people lose, but “small d” democrats don’t have that option. Democracy works when we work it.
We keep writing because it sustains our spiritual health. Among the great blessings of carrying within me 250 odd years and genes — and I do mean, odd — of one Quaker family is an intimate knowledge of the value in work that will not succeed. Quakers espouse non-violence and a belief in universal divinity, of God’s light in everyone. We have not stopped one war. I believe in non-violence, not because I think that the world will ever adopt it. I believe in non-violence because I believe that non-violence is my salvation. Hewing to non-violence changes me. It changes what I can make happen in my small place. Similarly, I have no hope that any call I make or letter I write will change Mitch McConnell’s mind. I write because the act of speaking simply and truthfully to my representative in the world changes me for the better. It reminds me that simplicity and truth matters, even if those values don’t matter to Mitch.
We keep writing because it sustains our mental health. I started letter writing as a teenage member of Amnesty International. The number of responses I’ve gotten from Mitch McConnell, even form letters and latterly form e-mails, astronomically outnumber the responses I’ve ever gotten from a tyrant or a jailer as an Amnesty writer. I’ve gotten exactly zero letters back from those folks. But since President Trump’s election, I’ve been grateful for this decades-long habit of writing and calling first to leaders in other countries and then here to my own. I have been devastated by this election, devastated by the sinking reality of exactly how much my fellow Americans despise women. Even in despair though, I knew what to do: call, write, resist, stand up. Even after the expected defeat yesterday of America’s children in the confirmation of Betsy DeVos, I knew that this morning I had to keep calling about Jeff Sessions. Just like putting my pants on every morning is a habit and a routine — you’re welcome, Berea! — so too is making my calls. In times of turmoil and trouble, habits and routines save our minds, help us find our place on the map, and tell us what to do.
We keep writing because there is a future. Unless Mitch McConnell has made a better deal with the devil than I can imagine, he won’t be the senior Senator from Kentucky forever. Even though I never expect to agree with him on much of anything, I call him now because that’s what we do for democracy. Someday, someone else will hold his seat, and that person may care a little for their constituents’ thoughts. I keep my writing muscles limber today because someday my words may matter to the person reading them.
We keep writing for the future. When I listen to my life speak about what I need to be doing, my mission always comes back to children and youth. In this case, I’m thinking of the young people in Mitch McConnell’s office who take my calls and read my letters. Here are they, new graduates and professionals who have found themselves working in the office of the third most powerful man in America. Here are they, with brains and morals, still wrapping up their adolescent development. They’ve chosen to serve America within the echelons of power. They are choosing public service, but with that twist of proximity to corrupting power. They take my calls and read my emails, these future power brokers. They probably think, “Oh, here’s another one of these pitiful fools who don’t know that Senator McConnell could not care less about her.” They don’t know that I’m also writing and speaking directly to them. They are the ones that I’m hoping to reach. They’re part of the garden where I’m hoping to plant seeds. As thousands of us call and write, I can’t help but hope that those young staffers sometimes pause and wonder at America, wonder what America might hold for them, and how they might change in ways that Mitch and probably we can’t.
I write without hope of success, but I don’t write without hope. I hope you write, too.
Jenny Hobson is a member of Union Church, Berea. She lives with her husband Chris Green and their two children, and she works at our local elementary school. You can read more at http://jennyhobsonschoice.blogspot.com