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Group's local chapter lobbies for peace

Wouldn’t it be amazing if Congress actually started doing more of what most people in this country want our representatives to be doing on their behalf instead of mostly doing what the big corporations and billionaires and their well-paid lobbyists want them to do?

For years many of us peace and justice activists in the Rogue Valley have tried to get our messages across to our elected officials through a variety of means, such as writing letters to the editor, attending town hall meetings, phone-calling and sending delegations to the local offices of our congressman and senators, and organizing rallies where we waved signs, chanted and listened to speeches asking the public to join us in demanding an end to endless wars, to pass gun safety laws, address climate change, etc.

Doing these actions made us feel like we were doing what we could to change things, but mostly, I hate to admit, they weren’t all that effective.

Now that we’ve formed a new peace group called the Rogue Valley FCNL Advocacy Team in February, we feel like we’ve found a more effective way of changing the behavior of Congress.

FCNL is short for the Friends Committee on National Legislation, a Quaker-sponsored lobbying nonprofit organization, founded in 1943, with the following mission:

  • We seek a world free of war and the threat of war.
  • We seek a society with equity and justice for all.
  • We seek a community where every person’s potential may be fulfilled.
  • We seek an earth restored.

In 2015, FCNL decided that it might become a more effective agent for change if it organized a nationwide citizens’ lobby effort by forming many “advocacy teams” composed of Quakers and like-minded citizens. These advocacy teams would receive training from experienced FCNL lobbyists in how to lobby their members of Congress and the Senate. Now there are more than 100 FCNL advocacy teams throughout the nation, including five in Oregon.

The real secret to success is the method taught by FCNL trainers and employed by all the advocacy teams so that all of these citizens are concentrating the same message on almost every member of Congress.

Each year FCNL chooses a different issue to be the one that all the advocacy teams will focus on for one full calendar year. This year’s issue is to repeal the Authorizations for the Use of Military Force (AUMF).

What in the heck is an AUMF and why should I care about it? You might well ask, and we’re here to tell you.

Actually, there are several AUMF laws on the books. Two main ones of concern are:

The Authorization for the Use of Military Force passed by Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush shortly after the terrorist acts of Sept. 11, 2001, authorizing the use of military action in Afghanistan and wherever our military wanted to engage the al-Qaida terrorists who attacked the U.S. on 9/11.

The AUMF passed by Congress and signed into law in 2002 to justify U.S. military force in Iraq and across the globe without effective Congressional review.

The U.S. Constitution says Congress is the only branch of government that can declare war. In passing the two AUMFs, Congress gave away this power and granted the presidency a blank check to pursue “terrorists” anywhere.

The FCNL training provides each advocacy team with the tools it needs to lobby its members of Congress effectively without expressing anger or hostility but instead using logic and well-researched facts to guide conversations with the members and their representatives. To learn more this FCNL program, visit fcnl.org/advocacyteams.

So far our Rogue Valley FCNL Advocacy Team has reached out to the staffs of all three of our members of Congress, Sen. Ron Wyden, Sen. Jeff Merkley and Rep. Greg Walden. We’ve had excellent cooperation from the local field representatives of Wyden and Merkley (Molly McCarthy for Wyden and Amy Amrhein for Merkley), and we spoke with Sen. Merkley briefly after his town hall at Phoenix High School last spring, and had long telephone conferences with staff members for the senators in Washington, D.C., who are responsible for military and foreign policy issues. We haven’t had nearly so much success with Rep. Walden’s staff, but we’ll keep trying and hope to get a meeting with the congressman or at least one of his D.C. staffers before the year is out.

The public is invited to find out much more about our team at our official “coming out” party and movie night on Wednesday, Oct. 9, at the Medford library’s Adams Room. Refreshments will be served at 6:30 p.m. At 7 p.m. we’ll begin the program by introducing our team and our mission, after which we’ll screen a documentary film, “An Endless War: Getting OUT of Afghanistan.” Please join us.

Allen Hallmark of Talent wrote this on behalf of the core members of the Rogue Valley FCNL Advocacy Team: Teresa Brain, Wes Brain, Susan Doherty, Brenda Gould, Daniel Guy, Allen Hallmark, Ivend Holen and Steve Vermie.