Congressional Harassment


I think that my Congresswoman is harassing me. (harass (tr.v.) To irritate or torment persistently.) According to 'Harass and harry imply systematic persecution by besieging with repeated annoyances, threats, or demands.' Granted, that may not strike many people here as being overly surprising. I suppose that I tend to be irritated, annoyed, and tormented by most politicians. But seriously, my congresswoman seems to be doing it on purpose. And by that I mean even more intentionally than most politicians.

I have limited patience for most things related to government on any level. Having said that, I certainly don't go looking for trouble. Recently, I have gotten significantly better at just ignoring the myriad inconveniences and irritations associated with our multitude of 'public servants.' I generally only become totally irate at the federal government maybe two or three times a week ' not excessive seeing as I can't help but react to a pay stub where there is a chasm evident between gross and net pay. Actually, I live in California and haven't been irritated by the federal government at all recently. (I've been too busy being aggravated by that socialist former MEChA member Cruz Bustamante ' who, incidentally, would only be marginally more offensive if he picked my pockets directly while wearing a T-shirt that read 'I hate white people'). But this is more than just the pay stub and the normal daily irritations. My Congresswoman appears to be going above and beyond the call of duty to irritate me personally.

Let me explain. After I arrived home from a hard day of work in the private sector (read: value-added work), I went to check my mail. Among the various supermarket circulars, bills, and a postcard from my good friend Phil, there was a pamphlet addressed to 'POSTAL CUSTOMER, 16th Congressional District, California.' I assume that this was intended for me. I don't know how I could be a postal 'customer' (customer (n.) One that buys goods or services), since I routinely avoid the USPS at all costs. I assumed that they were using the slightly obscure alternative definition (customer (n.) A lewd woman Shak.). I was highly offended. The pamphlet and I had not gotten off to a good start.

But I was intrigued. Against my better judgment, I decided to take a look. The pamphlet was a notice for upcoming 'Town Hall Meetings' in my area, and included a basic overview of Congressional Representative Zoe Lofgren's stance on various issues. I didn't have to get past the front cover before my fists had clenched and the veins had begun popping out of my forehead. Being a glutton for punishment, I opened it up to look inside. Lo and behold, there was a section about spam legislation! Did you know that spam causes 'an annual cost to US businesses of $10 billion in lost productivity'? [1] Luckily, there is hope for us all yet. My dedicated public servant informed me that she has 'introduced the REDUCE Spam Act to reduce e-mail spam that is clogging up our in-boxes with needless ads and solicitations.' There is even a provision for rewarding people to report spammers! Thank goodness we can finally stop all of this unsolicited mail that is draining national resources and lowering productivity!

I don't have much sympathy for people who get loads of spam in the first place. The typical person who is swamped by tens or hundreds of bulk e-mails every day appears to be the moron who wanders the web willy-nilly spreading his e-mail address through various pop-up windows like some sort of contemporary Johnny Appleseed. Most of these people become intrigued by a stupid ad and, regardless of privacy policy (or absence thereof), enter their e-mail address into the little box. I should know; I am one of those people. Maybe it's just me, but I find it extremely difficult to develop righteous indignation about the waste of my time while being well aware that the majority of it is my own fault.

But even if you happen to be common sense-challenged (as I am when it comes to infomercials, shiny objects, and pop-ups that are looking to sell my e-mail address), is it really that difficult to get rid of spam? When you get to a ridiculous volume, hitting 'delete' may become a bit tedious. But the world is full of filters (many of them entirely free) that will at least nearly eliminate the problem. I probably don't see more than one piece of spam per week in my inbox. When I do find one waiting for me, I block it and it never comes back. Granted, this may have the unintended consequence of preventing anyone hawking 'Low Low Mortgage Rates!' or 'Penis Enlargements!' from sending me insightful comments on my latest diatribe, but that is a risk I am willing to take. Does the minor inconvenience of setting up a free filter to get rid of something I brought upon myself really necessitate federal help? Does it sound like something that would require bringing Washington in to regulate the one area of my life from which they have been conspicuously absent?

In the end, this is exactly the sort of 'solution' that I would expect an elected official to come to. There is a point where it is no longer surprising when monkeys throw feces ' that's just what they do. And when you are confronted with something that is roughly what you expected, it is hard to be truly irate. So what was it about this spam legislation (certainly not the most dastardly thing in the pamphlet) that really irritated me? It was the fact that this plan to stop unsolicited e-mail came to me in a totally unsolicited piece of mail. I find it difficult to believe that this sort of hypocrisy could have possibly slipped by the staff writers and proofreaders unnoticed. At least the people who send me spam don't have the gall to tell me I paid for the privilege (as the "prepared, published and mailed at taxpayer expense" statement on the pamphlet so boldly proclaims). And how can you rail against bulk e-mail in a letter that is addressed to 'POSTAL CUSTOMER'? In light of her proposed legislation, I have to believe that Ms. Lofgren understands how irritating unsolicited mail can be. Which is why I must conclude that my congresswoman is actually trying to aggravate me.

I tried to let it go.

When I woke up this morning, I noticed that the light on my answering machine was blinking ' I had a new message. I decided to check if it was important before I ran out the door to go to work. After pressing play, I was treated to the pre-recorded voice of Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren inviting me to attend the upcoming Town Hall Meetings in my area. Setting aside the fact that I have no idea how she obtained my unlisted phone number (or why my phone company would consider this to be an appropriate reason to disclose that number), that was a bit bothersome. As her stance on spam would inform me that she understands the annoying character of unsolicited written communications, her support for the national 'Do Not Call' List has lead me to believe that she feels the same about unsolicited telephone calls. [2] Propagating these intentional intrusions twice in three days seem to fit with the definitions of 'besieging with repeated annoyances' and 'to irritate or torment persistently.' My Congresswoman is harassing me.

Thankfully, she was kind enough to provide mailing addresses, phone numbers and an e-mail address at which I could contact her. In a move that embodied catharsis more than activism, I've already sent her one letter expressing my contempt. (Go ahead! Visit her web site!) I may even attend a Town Hall Meeting this weekend and pose some questions if I'm in a truly vindictive mood. The difference, however, is that those behaviors were all expressly solicited.

[1] I have never received spam at work. Zoe Lofgren may need to stop trying to sign up for porn from her Congressional offices.

[2] In both proposed pieces of legislation, communications by government agents and organizations are expressly exempted ' much as Congressmen are exempted from Social Security and other annoyances that they perpetrate.

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Lara Hawrylchak's picture
Columns on STR: 5

Lara Hawrylchak is currently living in the wasteland of governmental credit expansion (Silicon Valley) in an attempt to relive herself of a sick fascination with politics by bludgeoning herself over the head with taxes and tomfoolery.  It is a rehabilitation more expensive and painful than a Betty Ford Center.  She writes to avoid overpressurization from buildup of excess sarcasm.