A Desperate Plea to Congress from an Ignored America

Dear Congress,

Have you no sense of decency?

What goes through your minds as you refuse to address gun violence, police brutality, and horrific inequality? Do you think about the poor? The oppressed? The dead? Do they haunt you at night? Do you even know about them?

These are the questions running panicked through the minds of Americans as we watch the nightly news. For many people, America is a place of unspeakable horrors. Split immigrant families languish in detention centers. Extraordinary poverty wrenches apart communities. People of all stripes are terrified to set foot outside for fear of being shot in a movie theater, or for being a person of color, or for living in a violence-torn neighborhood. Some of these people voted for you. Some could not vote, or chose not to. You are responsible for them all.

I’m not sure you even think about the country you’re supposed to serve. You must not, for if you did, you would not be able to live with the horrors you encourage through your absolutely suffocating inaction.

Most of you call yourselves religious. How can you do that in good faith? You turn your backs on the poor by ignoring them. You encourage violence by bowing to gun extremists. You spend exorbitant amounts on the military while humiliating poor people with caustic rhetoric. You turn your backs on videos of police violence, brutality, and white supremacy. Godless would more accurately describe the actions of the 114th Congress. I say that unflinchingly. You have blood on your hands. It may be poverty, and racism, and crazy white men with guns that are causing much of this nation’s anguish, but you have done little or nothing to stop the waterfall of injustices and for that you should be ashamed.

Hoovervilles have returned, reimagined
(Public photo: credit to https://www.flickr.com/photos/imlsdcc/5710295066)
We shout at you. We send letters. We try being patient. We scream with frustration when it becomes clear that you have not heard us. None of that has worked, and many of us have given up. The people have no money to donate – you’ve made quite sure of that through your appalling inaction on inequality. But make no mistake – history will look back on you with contempt. And that contempt will be deserved. As former president Jimmy Carter recently said, this nation has become an oligarchy. No longer representative of the people, Congress serves a vaguely defined power: one the American people cannot seem to wrangle or understand.

Certainly some of you have tried valiantly to fix this country, and we appreciate that. But we need to see your anger, too. Trying is not enough. Stage a filibuster. Make headlines. Call attention to this country’s woes. Do everything in your power to pull the political conversation toward bold, vast reforms. People like you are our only hope. The political system has been so bought, gerrymandered, manipulated, and stolen from the people of this country that our elected officials are ironically the only ones who can fix this royal mess. Use the backbone that got you elected in the first place. Be brave in the face of the yawning train wreck our government has become.

Here are my suggestions, though I know you’ll never hear them. Progressives, these are aimed at you: give up your re-election prospects, and go rogue. Introduce a bill to recall all federal funding from any state with a single recorded instance of police brutality until drastic action is taken to reform policing. Introduce a constitutional amendment to prevent gerrymandering. Introduce an amendment repealing the Second amendment. Try to cut the prison industry in half. For goodness sake, do something! What good is your reelection if your people suffer at your hand? Stop thinking of the endgame, or of your legacy. Do something huge! Your people will thank you. History won’t care whether you were elected sixteen times. It will care about how much hope you provided.

I am sincerely sorry this post is so emotional, but I do not regret writing it. We need emotion and fervor in our government. Such an extraordinarily powerful institution must feel huge emotions to effectively govern in a just way. The people of your nation are suffering immeasurably. Mothers whose children are gone are heartbroken. Please, hear our prayers. End the violence. Put yourselves in the shoes of the people this country has kicked into the dirt and left behind. Have some empathy. Imagine an America where no one worries about being murdered in cold blood during the day, or paying the bills, or being separated from family members. Our government has gone far from humanity, but in the words of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, “nothing’s lost forever.” We must reconcile, and you must lead.