Message to Congress


Message to Congress

My name is Tom Unsicker. I left Santa Cruz, CA on December 15th, 2007 riding a bicycle and towing a trailer.  I have ridden through rain, high wind and freezing temperatures.  I’ve been chased by dogs, bitten once, run off the road twice and have worked through numerous equipment failures.  After almost two months and 4,000 miles I am here in Washington D. C. to present the “Courage” I have towed across the continent to you, the Congress of the United States.

I stand humbled by the courage of the people I have met.  The need and tragedy in the lives I have glimpsed make any soap opera a comedy by comparison.  Yet, in spite of the poverty and despair I encountered, the people I met were kind, gracious and willing to help a stranger.  The People of America are a great people and deserve leaders who listen attentively and respond.

The purpose of this ride has been threefold.  First and foremost it has been an effort to reengage people with their government and the government with the people.  I have been encouraging people to call their legislators on a regular basis and participate by offering their opinions. 

Secondly, I have been listening to the opinions of the people I meet and soliciting insights and views on what the government should be doing.  At every stop of the ride I would speak with people.  Their individual voices and messages merged into a collective voice which spans party lines and delivers a loud, clear message to the leaders of our country.

Finally, I am bringing symbolic packages of “courage” to you, the Legislators.  These will hopefully remind you that you were elected to fix certain problems which, to date, you have not had the courage to take on.

However, before you receive your “courage” I have a message from the people of America that must be delivered.    When I told the people I met what  I was doing every one of them, conservative, liberal and decline to state, agreed that the current group of legislators were acting without courage.  They were not doing the jobs they were elected to do. When I asked if they had called their representatives the answer was invariably, “What’s the use?  They don’t listen and don’t care.”

You, the Congress of the United States of America, have made it so difficult for the average citizen to gain access that the vast majority have given up trying to contact you.  You must reach out and make sure that people know how to get in touch with you and your staff and are encouraged to do so.  Full voice mail boxes, answering machines to nowhere, unanswered letters and emails have driven a majority of our citizens out of communication.  You cannot heed the voice of your people if it will not speak.  You, the Congress of the United States, are the reason for their silence.

When I asked what the Congress should be doing the first response of every one had to do with domestic issues.  Better paying jobs with benefits, bring the jobs home from overseas, health care for everyone, more support for education, lower fuel prices, a fair tax system and veteran’s benefits were most frequently mentioned. The voice of America is a voice of desperation wrapped around pride. 

There was a hard core biker in New Mexico who wanted more support for education – “Kids with education don’t go to jail.  Build more schools, not jails. “

A man in South Carolina lost his pension when his company declared bankruptcy.  He had to have major surgery.  Medicare paid 80% of $130,000.  He had to fight to keep his home from being taken for the balance.  He said he was lucky.  But, he knew people who were worse off and needed help.

The wife of a veteran from Maryland spoke of her husband.  He came home from Iraq deaf and with severe post traumatic stress syndrome.  She cannot get the help she needs from the VA or her Representative.  Why can’t you, the Congress of the United States take care of those and the families who have given us so much?

Not one person I spoke with asked for a handout.  All wanted a fair chance to make it on their own, a level playing field.  They asked for help for those who needed it.

There is more poverty and need in this country than you imagine.  On a bicycle, one travels slowly enough to see the squalor behind the fences.  Counting the empty shop fronts and shopping centers, the ‘For Sale’ signs and boarded up houses becomes depressing.  This is a perspective not available at 65 miles per hour.  It is a perspective not available on a staged tour.  There are large sections of our nation where the people are living in the third world.

You, the Congress of the United States, have to listen to the people, listen to the voice of America when it tells you that the country needs better jobs, economic protection and a fair tax structure.  The voice wants protection for the young and old.  It wants honor and justice for its veterans.  It wants more support for education because a better educated population will help with the solution, not become a larger problem with age.

You, the Congress of the United States have to start working for the franchised voters and get out of the pockets of the corporate interests who have reenacted the iron law of wages in this new age of robber barons.

The Voice of America also spoke of the Iraq situation.  I spoke with serving military personnel, returned veterans, dependants and family of serving personnel, veterans  of previous wars and the general public.  The uniformed soldiers could not comment.  However, when I told them what I was doing they thanked me for my effort and said they hoped you, the Congress of the United States, would act.

Every other person was in agreement that the troops should come home now.  From an immediate withdrawal of all troops to a phased withdrawal were solutions mentioned.  However, everyone  said we did not belong there and it was time to end the occupation/war.

The wife of an Air Force fire fighter, working as a waitress in New Mexico, had to face her fear over her husband’s deployment.  She said he was proud to serve and would do so with honor but that he and his unit did not believe we should be there.  He will not re-enlist.

The mother of a soldier in Alabama was waiting for the return of her son from his second deployment.  His tour had just been extended for the third time.  He should have been home in November and would not now return until March.  She said he and his friends did not believe we belonged in Iraq and were causing violence by our presence.  She feared for his safety.  She wants all troops home now.

The majority voice wants immediate withdrawal.  The minority voice wants withdrawal but feels that by leaving too suddenly it would cause chaos.  As one person in South Carolina said, “We messed it up, we gotta fix it.”

Only one of all the people believed that our presence in Iraq was fighting or deterring terrorism here at home.  Most wanted their National Guards home to help in case there was another big incident.  Most said they didn’t think of fear or terrorism unless they saw it on the news.

You, the Congress of the United States, must fix this problem now.  You were elected to end the occupation and bring the troops home.  The voice of America is demanding that you fulfill your pledge.

The Voice of America also spoke of the corruption and lack of accountability in our government.  A young woman in Mississippi summed up the voice when she said of our president “That man gotta go.”  Of the hundreds of people with whom I spoke only two expressed favorable opinions of the Executive branch.  Most said that they were liars.  Most thought there would be nothing done.  One man in Arkansas, of East Indian extraction, said that in Delhi G.W. bush would be “taken by the ear and thrown from the building.  He is the worst bleeping president in American history.”

You, the Congress of the United States, have the responsibility not only to listen to and protect your citizens.  You are sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America from all enemies foreign AND DOMESTIC.  It is your duty to investigate the actions of this administration and prosecute where you find criminal acts.  It is your duty and responsibility to stand strong and restore the rights which have been violated.  Suspension of Habeas Corpus, domestic spying, warrantless wiretapping and the poorly written, over reaching Patriot Act are in need of your attention.  Fix the problems.

The Voice of America is demanding that you, the Congress of the United States, have the courage to stand up and act.  It is demanding that you do SOMETHING, even if it is not what each individual desires.  Conservative and liberal alike are calling in a unified voice for action.

To that light, I have brought you these symbols of courage.  Not all of you need them.  Congressman Farr, Congresswoman Lee, Congressman Moran, Congresswoman Waters, Congressman Waxman, Congressman Stark and Congressman Kucinich are a few of those who have stood strong.  However, even they might admit that a spare sack of “Courage” might come in handy.  Please accept these packets of pugnacity as symbols of strength and resolve.  Put them in a place where they will remind you to stand tall and do the job your franchised citizens elected you to do.

Thank you.


copyright 2008 Thomas D. Unsicker