My father has some mild dementia. He’s still himself in all the important ways, but he exhibits strange habits and deficiencies, and most notable among them: He is utterly powerless to resist the siren call of the political action groups who send him letters with brilliantly worded requests for money.
These smooth talkers are absolute masters of whipping up urgency around their issues and hastening action (meaning: money) from their audience. It’s a clinic in persuasive writing. In my days as a catalog copywriter, I could have used a dose of this kind of motivational magic — too bad I wasn’t capable of such crass or exploitative behavior.
Their plights are desperate; they are going to be honest with me, things are looking grim at the moment; they are reluctant to ask more from Americans at this time, but the threats to liberty are just too dire; they must hear from me as soon as possible because THE FATE OF OUR COUNTRY HANGS IN THE BALANCE.
And oh, that fearsome pixie dust has worked wonders on my father, who has given money to just about all of them before his children stepped in to protect his dwindling bank account. Of course, it’s a little too late: once you get hooked by just one money-hungry organization, your name gets around to all the others. It’s like the Politcal Action Committee version of having your name Sharpied on a bathroom wall. For a good time, mail your solicitation to …
That pile in the upper left is all "guaranteed winner" sweepstakes notifications. Just send $10 to collect your prize -- which could be up to $2 million! Wowzers!
Here’s the full contents of my father’s mailbox in August, carted from his apartment in heavy-duty bags and piled high on my dining room table: more than 250 pleas from solicitors, panhandling of the basest, most typographically invasive kind.
The causes are universally conservative — if it mentions Hillary, the death tax, or the United Nations, my father most assuredly sent $10, $15, $25. Never mind that Hillary is not the president, or that his particular assets will never be subject to a death tax, or that the UN has yet to gain access to my larder and steal my baby formula.
I’m sure there are liberal fearmongers, too, but they’re not lurking in my father’s mailbox. The only species I’ve observed in the wild is the Shamelus republicanus, and as I say, they are supremely skilled at juking old folks out of their cash.
That’s right, Mr. Scott! At a time when we are drowning in a sea of debt, threatened by Swine Flu and other new infectious diseases from Mexico, and overwhelmed by an invading army of illegal aliens … the Obama Administration is quietly advancing the construction of a massive “Superhighway” that will all but obliterate our borders with Canada and Mexico.
— Americans Against U.N. Control
These God-hating liberals want to take the cross off public land? Why don’t THEY get “crossed off”?! Let’s “cross off” the God-hating liberal groups who want to attack decent people like you and me at every turn.
–In God We Trust (The Rt. Rev. Council Nedd II, honorary national chariman)
Dear Fellow Christian,
I firmly believe that Hillary Clinton hates you.
— Christian Voice, a program of American Service Council
Not long before a census worker was hanged in Kentucky with the word “Fed” scrawled across his chest, my father received this thoughtful lecture in the mail from a group called the Southeastern Legal Foundation:
Because when the full extent of Obama’s power grab over the 2010 Census becomes known to the public, I believe the American people will be up in arms.
As you know, the 2010 Census is a source of unrivaled power … it will decide the fate of thousands of political offices and TRILLIONS of dollars in government money … and Obama is making an outrageous bid to manipulate it to guarantee a permanent liberal takeover of America.
It doesn’t take much imagination to picture an excitable Kentuckian getting this same piece of mail, and deciding to keep that “source of unrivaled power” out of the hands of … well, with such unsubtle lynching symbolism, it’s hard not to guess who. That murderer’s message was directed a little higher up the federal chain than Census Bureau worker Bill Sparkman, don’t you think? Not that race has anything to do with it, of course.
My father made me his power of attorney a few years ago, so with some firm encouragement from my siblings and me (as well as flat-out taking away his checkbook and canceling his high-limit credit card) we’re making strides in stemming the outflow of dollars. When he reported that he couldn’t “mentally face the task” of dealing with his mounds of mail, I began hauling it away and trying to find a way to respond.
At first I took to venting my frustration by using snark. When the “Friends of President Bush and the Agenda for America” sent him two one-dollar bills with a desperate plea for him to send it back (plus a little extra, of course), I pocketed the greenbacks and used the postage-paid envelope to reply:
“Thanks for the 2 bucks. Keep ’em coming!“
When Sen. Mark Wallop (R-SD), sent my father an “emergency NO OBAMACARE petition” (i.e., request for money), I replied:
“I have bunions. What will your plan do for my bunions?“
But these were empty gestures. I can’t really hope to out-frustrate these jackals with barbs and sarcasm. So I’ve adopted a new tactic. I’m opening every letter. If there is a reply envelope (usually there is), I include a piece of the solicitor’s own mail bearing my father’s address, circle it, and staple this note just above:
“My father has dementia, and would gladly give away the last of his savings to anyone who asked. PLEASE remove him from your mailing list at once and leave him in peace. Since most solicitors send repeated mailings, I’ve noted your address and will be watching.”
Which is true, too. Before I mail back the letter, I note the return address (and any P.O. Box, just to be thorough) so if future mail comes in from those addresses, I can send back slightly more strongly worded demands of decency. So far, I’ve got a list of 108 names and address of offending organizations, from the vague (“Americans for Prosperity”) to the thoroughly bonkers (“White House Watch” — who sent a “Petition for Impeachment” because of, you know, birth certificates and Fascism and Obama “representing the interests of our enemies”).
If it works to reduce my father’s mail, it won’t be much of a victory, really. It’s just a quiet retreat, not a retort of blistering rhetoric that these jackals deserve. But when the enemy is this…
… it’s hard to put much faith in a battle of logic … or a war of wits.