A Call for Change

It is a heartbreaking reality that sharing a Vox article on Facebook does not change the world. Neither does liking a post by Planned Parenthood, following the ACLU on Instagram, nor reporting the comments of racist grandparents in flyover states. As much as I wish it were so, smashing that “like” does not radically transform the world into a more just place. As an individual who is pretty unhappy with the state of affairs in this country, I have found myself desperately clicking posts like “10 ways you can stop the firestorm on reproductive rights… FROM YOUR BED” and “Want to make everybody equal in the swish of a pig’s tail? Here’s how!” While this kind of Internet activism seems to ameliorate draining feelings of powerlessness, it also intensifies them. 

I’ve called Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, 10 times now, but he never picks up. Because I’m from a blue state, I’m forced into playing phone tag with a guy whose Google image search returns far too many side-by-sides of himself and a turtle of which one can be proud. Since the turtle man has been screening my calls, I decided to diversify the Republicans on my call log. On Thursday, I got through to my first senator. It was Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), via a polite female staffer with a Southern lilt. Senator Alexander is chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP—it’s the shorthand, but also… please help) and, according to The Washington Post, has been pivotal in shielding Betsy DeVos from scrutiny and tough questions during her confirmation.

I waited on the line for 15 minutes, listening to music that I can only assume was pulled from a CD called “NOW! That’s What I Call The Confederacy.” Just as I caught myself humming along to “The South Shall Rise Again,” I was jolted by the voice of an actual human on the other end. With delivery that was much more 1st grader’s acting debut than “I have a dream,” I ran through the reasons why I believe DeVos is grossly unqualified, using a script handily provided by 5calls.org. I forgot Senator Alexander’s name so instead referred to him as “the Senator” in ominous anonymity. As I stumbled through the script with newfound illiteracy, I detoured in an attempt to arouse any kind of feeling in this poor staffer, which I understand is definitely not part of her job description. I was under the impression that my heart would take the wheel and I would vomit eloquence I didn’t know I possessed. 

Instead, in the whiny tone of a girl desperate to win over a guy who isn’t even interested, I pled: “As someone who has worked with public school kids before, I like, know they can’t be neglected, and I’m worried that under Betsy DeVos they totally will be.” As the words tumbled out seasoned with far too many “likes,” I felt steeped in embarrassment. I could hardly be taken seriously when I sounded like Cher Horowitz in Clueless. I garnished the phone call with “I will remember the senator’s stance in the next election!” to which the staffer responded “…uh,” rightfully so, considering I’m not at all registered to vote in Tennessee. I capped my monologue with a defiant “Thank you for your TIME,” with misplaced emphasis that hardly helped my case.

I wish my plea was more convincing and eloquent and less valley girl takes politics. Since I’m not a Tennessean, I doubt my recitation will hold any weight — something that’s heartbreaking and wrong considering their Senator is at the helm of a decision that will have nationwide impact. Regardless, I’ll surely be in touch again and am seriously considering employment in Nashville—for the music scene…but also to vote against Senator Lamar Alexander in a historic act of pettiness.