Saturday, October 23, 2010

Letter to Congress: Support NPR not Extremists

I write letters or sign petitions all the time about issues that are important to me.  I'm on the email list for the NC Conservation Network, Planned Parenthood, both of our nation's main political parties, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, HRC, and several others.  In the past I've done some volunteering and protesting with Greenpeace and participated some in the 2008 Obama/Biden campaign, and more recently my county's Progressive Democrats group.  I wanted to get more involved in this year's elections, but I decided that studying for the LSAT so that I can meet my short-term goal of getting into law school starting in 2011 had to take precedence over everything else.

I'll be honest - in a way that makes me feel like an ideological hypocrite.  Let me explain.  I publicize issues I care about by emailing my representatives and sharing articles and petitions via Facebook and Twitter, but I'm not out canvassing, donating vast sums of money, or rallying for sanity.  I guess I really shouldn't beat myself up - I'm not really a part of the oft-criticized social media crowd that allegedly only cares about issues enough to sign up for a "if 1 million people join this, I will..." Facebook group and never think about them again.  I can't find the article I read criticizing this online phenomenon, but here's a rather popular article that sparked a lot of response (mostly from people disagreeing with the writer's claims that online activism isn't really a solution):  I don't think that anyone should try to minimize the impact that writing to your elected officials can have, so I'm trying to get over my misplaced guilt.

While I definitely feel conflicted about online activism and while I really wish I had the time, money, and ability to do more, I will never stop standing up for what I believe in.  I will continue to promote issues I think are important via my Facebook profile, Twitter, and any other social media I deem appropriate.  I will continue to write my legislators, both in state and in Washington, to let them know where one of their constituents stands on the issues.  I will never stop emailing officials, political organizations, religious groups, and outspoken bigots like Focus on the Family regardless of where they are located if their actions and ideological stances are bad for our country.  I will sign petitions in favor of net neutrality, comprehensive bullying education and sex education in public schools, the protection of benefits like unemployment insurance, Medicaid, and Medicare that mean so much to the low-income clients I serve at my job every day, and legislation that requires insurance companies to provide women coverage for any type of prescription birth control they may want or need.

I thought it might be an interesting experiment to save the messages that I send online about these issues.  I'm going to try and remember to add to the blog the text of the emails and letters I send as another way to promote awareness and spark discussion.  I hope you'll provide me with your feedback on some or all of them.  I sometimes (but not nearly as often as I should) get responses from the people to whom I write.  I have to put in a good word here for Senator Richard Burr, R-NC for being the only politician that has consistently responded to my concerns in writing, even though we quite often disagree on the issues.  I respect and appreciate that so when I can I'll try to post any responses I receive.

Okay so, that was a rather long segue into my first blog post documenting a emailed letter/petition signature I sent to Congress.  The issue is regarding the call to action by Senator Jim Demint, R-SC and former Governor Sarah Palin to end federal funding for NPR.  If you're not familiar with the Juan Williams situation, you can find more information via Google - there are articles galore.  For an insider's perspective, check out this NPR employee's post.  I first heard about the controversy via email from both Free Press Action Fund and Credo Action.  Here is the petition I signed and the one from Credo.  The text of my message is below:

I rely on NPR to provide me with news and political commentary. I don't know where I'd be without them. I grew up listening to Car Talk on Saturday mornings with my father and news during the week when he took me to school. In college, I used to listen to NPR stations to have stimulating classical music to listen to while I studied. Now as a professional adult, I listen to NPR to get my news and stay updated on current events that matter to our nation. My almost 23 year love affair with public radio is just one of many stories, but I share it with you to let you know what a broad and diverse impact public radio has. Even though my needs have changed over the years, NPR has always been there for me to meet them.

Public radio is extremely important to me and to millions of Americans. I understand that some are upset over the recent firing of Juan Williams. I am not going to support or disparage that action. I will say that I do not see that firing someone for perceived bigotry is an offense that should be punished with decreased funding.

Public radio relies on the funds you are considering eliminating in order to function and bring the news, music, political commentary, and entertainment to 30 million Americans across our great nation. Please do not let political pontification at election time cause you to rashly eliminate funding that NPR needs to continue functioning at its current level. Stand up for what's right and defend the public's right to have access to public radio.

Thank you very much for your time.

Some people are arguing that even if this funding cut does happen, NPR won't be affected all that much.  I'm not willing to take that chance.  Please let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Until next time,

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