Epistolary Democracy

Consider the premise of this annual civic education and advocacy tradition in Irvine, of all places. Writing a letter to your local elected official means you'd have to know who that person is. People don't. Ask around. Who's your Congress member? State senator? Me, I've got their names and addresses stuck on my fridge. There's Barb and Diane in the U.S. Senate, Gary in the House, Dick in the state Senate, Todd in the Assembly. They send letters and emails aplenty. Dear Constituent. Dear Mr. or Mrs. Dear Friend. Granted, they're mailing at taxpayer expense. “Franking,” it's called—a privilege of being elected—so basically, I'm paying for all this nifty one-way correspondence. Who's gonna pay for my response? Women For: Orange County, that's who, which for 22 years reminds you on a Saturday morning who you elected, provides free stationery and envelopes, and pays for the stamps on your letter to Congress, a supervisor, committee chair, mayor, commissioner or CEO of a naughty corporation. You show up at a senior center in Irvine, where the nice ladies of this progressive nonprofit grass-roots outfit introduce you to a roomful of activists from environmental, health care, education, women's rights and anti-war groups. They feed you bagels, muffins and plenty of coffee, and sit you down at a table with Your Fellow Americans. You read the literature and sample letters so you know what you're talking about. You start with a salutation. Sir or Madam. Dear Chair. Honorable is a little brown-nosy but, hey, if it works, why not? At the end of the day, Women For: OC mails a few thousand actual citizen letters, no charge. It's their contribution to a little deal we like to call democracy, and the only problem is that Women For: OC doesn't do it every weekend. Meanwhile, don't say they never gave you anything.

The Great American Write-In at Lakeview Senior Center, 20 Lake Rd., Irvine, (949) 654-0006; www.womenforoc.org. Sat., 9:30 a.m. Free.

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