The word project has multiple meanings. It can be a plan, a mission or a venture. However, if you pronounce it slightly differently, the same word means to communicate something, to cast forth light and to make our voice audible.
How fitting, then, the name DC Project, which was chosen for this adventure that brought together a group of female firearms professionals in Washington, D.C., to establish relationships with their individual lawmakers, to reveal the faces and stories of 2nd Amendment supporters and to serve as advisers on America’s gun culture.
I was blessed to be one of those women, and I brought along my husband, as well as our 26-year-old daughter and her 19-month-old daughter. Three generations of our family were represented in our nation’s capital as we explored the city, remembered our history and spoke with our elected officials.
My experience was one of conflicting thoughts and emotions. We walked around a beautiful city, clean streets, graffiti-free walls, and some of the friendliest citizens we have ever met. We toured historical sites that date back to the creation of the grand experiment we call the United States of America. We met with our elected officials, who were warm, inviting, engaged and seemingly in full agreement with the ideas we presented. Yet, we know that divisive and shortsighted politics often fuel the work of the city. We have experienced the frustration of watching policies ignored and opportunities missed. And we sense that corruption and backroom deals haunt the hallways that we walked with our grandchild.
If the city is beautiful, and the people are warm and the elected officials inviting, then where does the hopefulness and honor of the past become overshadowed by the doom and gloom hanging over our future? Whom do I point to? Where do I lay the blame? What address do I use to lodge my complaint?
The answer may surprise you, although I hope you have already beaten me to the punch. Pick up the nearest mirror; take a look inside, and whoever is staring back at you…that is where the responsibility rests. You are responsible. And I am responsible. And this is at the heart of the DC Project. Whatever I have projected out onto my family, my friends, my elected officials and my circle of influence is what I can expect, and nothing more. Am I staying informed and communicating with my public officials, or am I Monday-morning quarterbacking and complaining about not being heard and not being represented? Are you exercising every opportunity to vote your opinion and modeling it for future generations, or are you sitting back, making excuses about being only one person whose vote doesn’t count anyway?
Some of us just simply weren’t taught by our parents and grandparents how to have a voice. We don’t know the first step to take, or even whom our Congressperson or Senators are, and we would not know what to say to them if we had an appointment in their office. Well, the good news is, neither did most of the women who projected their energy and their ideas during the DC Project. But we learned. We did. We tried. And it was amazing!
Here are a few easy tools that you can use, and some simple steps to begin. It will feel odd and unnatural at first, but that’s OK.
4) Write three letters. One to your Congressperson and one to each of your Senators. (Hint: mailing addresses are listed where you can discover your representatives, above).
Next you will be asking, “How do I write a letter?” Don’t get bogged down in fancy language. Don’t worry about sounding uninformed. If you know of a specific bill or topic you want to write about to thank them for their work, or ask them to vote a certain way, that is great. If not, just write anyway. It will be good practice. Say something like this:
Dear Representative X, I am your constituent in City Town, AZ and I wanted to introduce myself. I am on the PTA and a member of the local gardening club and wanted ask you what we, your constituents, can do to help you in performing your job of representing us. If I can ever be of any help to you please let me know. Sincerely, J. Doe
Write to your local elected officials, also. Seek to have a relationship with the people who have been entrusted to represent your voice in the mayor’s office, in the governor’s office, as well as in the state House and Senate.
One of the sites we visited while we were on the journey of the DC Project was Arlington National Cemetery. While I stood there on a freezing, torrential, blustery day, I envisioned each of the 400,000 men and women for whom Arlington, Virginia, is their final and eternal resting place. I looked at the ages on the gravestones and was struck by the young lives that had been sacrificed. I considered the conditions of the battlefields of the wars these people endured, and the losses their families sustained in their absence during their time of service and, for those lost in battle, the eternity of pain upon their deaths.
Then I looked into my own mirror and was ashamed at how little I have done and how little I have given, and how I have failed to pick up the baton with which they so boldly ran. I glanced at my daughter and realized I have not taught her what the families before me had taught their children.
And then my eye fell on my granddaughter, and I caught that ray of hope. I realized that these three generations of women can start today, to pick up the mantle of responsibility and teach ourselves in order to empower our future generations. Standing in a place where so many gave all, I became energized to carry my responsibility with greater care, and now I turn to you and ask…will you join me? Will you join the spirit of the DC Project and project your energy and your thoughts and your ideas onto the world around you? Will you care enough to write a letter or make an appointment with your elected officials?
And, will you inform yourself and cast an educated vote in each and every election? Take one more glance in that mirror; do you now see the solution to making our future better? I do.
Cheryl Todd, owner of AZFirearms.com and cohost of Gun Freedom Radio, has more than 30 years of experience in the firearms industry. She holds undergraduate degrees in Psychology and a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership, which allows her to bring a unique voice to the gun world. View all posts by Cheryl Todd