Write A Letter Or Do Something Else?


This is another experimental piece on this website. Here I start with a well-meaning idea. I then come up with something that is intuitively bizarre but that also offers an alternative to the first idea. After that is a table that compares the relative merits of both ideas. It is hoped that articulating the ideas as such will give a recorded history of a debate or discussion. It is also hoped that the process will result in a new combined idea that is better than either of the initial ideas.

The original idea came from an article about a newly formed group called Mothers Acting Up. Their website is www.mothersactingup.org. They have a great idea and hopefully it will catch on. Nothing here is intended to belittle the group, however I have heard I write that way. As I was reading the article I came across the concern that the bombing in Afghanistan was harming the children. (True) One possible protest to this is to write your Congressman and suggest that we stop. (Berkeley actually adopted a resolution to this effect once.) I thought, "What a waste! That won't do anything." (Actually it will make people feel better and might have an effect.) My reasoning for my reaction will be listed among the arguments in the table below. (Please don't leave yet.)

The next thought that popped into my head was an observation that Linda Ellerbee made during a trip to Afghanistan. The summary of the talk where I heard this is on this site at www.kurtsimmons.com/uniquelives/Ellerbee.html. In it Linda mentioned seeing her hotel doorman taking crumpled paper out of the trash and straightening it out for his kids to use. As I recalled this I made the bizarre leap that rather than writing to your congressman you could just send the blank pieces of paper to the kids in Afghanistan. In the long run, if the goal is helping the children, it would probably be a better use of resources.
ISSUE: Should we write to our congressman to stop the bombing in Afghanistan?
FOR Arguments
  1. Congresspeople need to hear what people think.
  2. You really can make a difference.
AGAINST Arguments
  1. In the male, military, industrial, political system that exists now, war is the one tool we really understand.
  2. A congressMAN is not going to able to respond with the needed resolve to an emotional argument made by a mother. As the system is now, writing the letter, even thousands of them, will not reach the response centers of his brain. (Now if you wrote to a congressman's WIFE...)
  3. Change to the system will not happen during a war. It needs to happen when we are not at war.
  4. The totalitarian regimes in place in the Middle East really are evil and really only do understand war. Bombing and its collateral damage are unfortunate but necessary at this point in history.
ISSUE: Should we mail blank pieces of paper to children in Afghanistan?
FOR Arguments
  1. Paper is one component of the education of the children. If we cannot stop this war, we need to prepare that country and its children for the peace of the future. A better educated youth will grow into better leaders
  2. The goal is to optimize the potential use of resources. If you are only going to do one thing which has the better chance of a positive result? We know paper will be used. Letters written may not even get read.
  3. Bulk shipments might be cheaper, but they are harder to organize. Also lots of small shipments increase the likelihood of something getting through.
AGAINST Arguments
  1. Do they have a useful mail system there? Do you we have any addresses for children or mothers?
  2. Do they have pens they can use? If we mail a pen will the envelope tear? The chance of the letter arriving in a useful state is very small.
  3. That is such a silly idea that people will not believe it and thus will not try it.
  4. Something that people can do on the internet (e-mail congressman) has a much better chance of occurring.

Copyright 2002. Kurt J. Simmons