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Most of my friends know that I suffer from debilitating phone anxiety. Having to call someone I don't personally know makes all of my muscles tense up, and asking for something over the phone is often physically painful. In an effort to overcome my phobia and ameliorate the despair I've been feeling from watching the news for the past few months, I started using 5Calls.org.
What is 5Calls.org?
5Calls.org is a website that encourages citizens to make five quick calls to their congressional representatives or other public officials every day. You don't have to give the website your email; just type in your zip code, and you'll be presented with a list of issues. Click on one that you care about, and it'll give you one number at a time to call. These numbers are usually the same three people (your two senators and your House representative), but you'll occasionally get numbers for government agencies seeking public opinion. You'll also be provided with information and a script in case you can't think of anything to say.
But I sign online petitions... Why call?
Sadly, written letters, emails, and online petitions do very little to affect politics. The volume is so high that such things often go unread. Calls, however, are important because people are getting paid to answer the phones, so a sudden flood of complaints can complicate the workday. Also, staffers tally the concerns received via phone everyday and present that data to the representative. Writing letters and signing petitions might make you feel good, but calling is a better way to make a difference. (IMPORTANT: Make sure to give your full name and address, including the zip code, when you leave a message. If you don't, you may not be included in the daily tally.)
What's it like?
Fortunately, I haven't had to talk to many people. Actually, I've only talked to one of David Price's staffers, who is probably already getting tired of me. Whenever I call my senators' offices in D.C., I get the voicemail. I've discovered that it's personally easier for me to call someone to "tell them something" rather than "ask them something." When you're expressing a concern to a congressional staffer, you're not asking them to agree with you; you're telling them to communicate a message. I still find myself stumbling over words and short of breath while calling, but I'm always in a better mood afterwards. It's essentially exposure therapy while working out my civic engagement muscles at the same time.
What other steps can I take to make a difference?
Don’t wait until the November midterm elections to be politically active. In addition to calling your elected officials, here are some other ways to get involved:
- Donate your time or money to an organization that supports a cause you care about. Nonprofits like Planned Parenthood rely on member donations to provide affordable services, and local nonprofits are always looking for volunteers.
- Join a protest, or start your own. Visit resistancenearme.org to keep track of political actions near you.
- Get involved with a voter registration drive, or plan your very own.
- Use your social media platforms as a bullhorn. Write articles, make art and share reputable news stories on Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube.
- Don't forget about local politics. Stay abreast of what's going on in your own neighborhood. Visit a town hall meeting, or get involved with your local school board.
Take 5 Minutes, Make 5 Calls
Take the challenge for a day! If I can do it, so can you! If you're lucky, you won't even have to interact with a person. Visit 5Calls.org and have your voice heard.