Final Word: Get involved

How involved are you in politics? Not much, huh? You work for a living, right? Let me ask you this: Do you tune in to talk radio on a daily basis? It’s a good bet the average Equipment World reader isn’t twisting the radio dial trying to find Al Franken’s radio show – but how about Rush Limbaugh? Maybe a few of you East Coast guys listen to Howard Stern in the morning – no shortage of opinions being expressed there…Where do you get your news in the evening? Do you watch Hannity & Colmes? What about Bill O’Reilly’s show? Bill Maher, anyone? Anyone at all?

Contractors never have a hard time telling people what they think. Forthrightness seems to be a shared trait, coupled with the DNA sequences that program you to love earthmoving equipment, hot coffee, pickup trucks and working outdoors.

If you’re as opinionated as most contractors I’ve met, I’m sure your friends and family know where you stand on the issues of the day. But what about your elected officials? Do you let them know your opinions on a regular basis?

You ought to. In fact, every American in this country ought to. It’s never been easier to do so, either. One hundred years ago, if you wanted to gripe at your senator or congressman, you had to sit down and write him a letter. That’s time-consuming by today’s standards, so it’s understandable that a lot of people don’t take the time to do it.

Fifty years ago, you could pick up the phone and call your legislators. Of course, you had to look up the number, deal with operators and being put on hold… So the ability to express your views was better, but not perfect.

Today, we’ve got e-mail. One of the first things I did when I got e-mail was find the electronic addresses of my senator and congressman. It takes about 30 seconds to do using Google. Here’s a good directory if you don’t feel like running a search yourself: website.

Once you’ve tracked your officials down, store their addresses in your personal distribution list. At least once a month, I send Sen. Richard Shelby or Rep. Spencer Bachus a note telling them I support or oppose a policy or action in the news. The notes don’t have to be long. A couple of lines is usually enough:

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Dear Senator –
Gas prices are too damn high! Do something about it!
Jack Roberts
Northport, Alabama

See? Nothing to it. Now, I can type pretty fast. But even you hunt-and-peck types ought to be able to crank off a similar message and send it on its way in a minute or less.

If you include your home address (a good idea since the recipients will know you’re a voter in their districts) you might even get a reply. Sen. Shelby always mails responses to the e-mail messages he receives. He’ll explain his position on the issue, even if he disagrees with you completely. Sending a note to Bachus is like beaming signals into deep space … No answers yet, but at least I feel better letting somebody in his office know what I think.

Putting your two cents in has never been easier thanks to e-mail. The more people weigh in on important issues facing our country, the better our democracy works. We all owe it to ourselves to participate in the great debates that shape our nation. And as I said, it’s never been easier to do that than it is today.