How to give your Member of Congress a spine

Yesterday morning, this tweet popped up in my feed:

Which made me think, “It sure would be great if my state’s senior Senator, Chuck Schumer, showed more spine! So far, our other Senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, has shown a lot of courage voting against almost all of President Trump*’s nominees. Maybe Chuck just needs some encouragement.”

Turns out, if you go on Amazon, spines aren’t really that expensive. This life size Flexible Chiropractic Spine Model is only $79.95, floor stand included.

My next thought was, could I crowdfund this? What if a lot of people feel the same way? What tool should I use to make it easy, like one-click easy?

Luckily for me, I was at Civic Hall, the collaborative community center for civic tech that I help run here in NYC. And I saw a couple of friends having coffee, including Matt Stempeck, a veteran of many of these kinds of projects who is an encyclopedia of tech knowledge. He lit up with the perfect answer: “Set up a wedding registry for him on Amazon! You can pick out a bunch of products, put in his office address, and Amazon takes care of the rest — billing, shipping, even gift notes.” (You can read Matt’s MIT thesis on the “Participatory Aid Marketplace” where he notes that Amazon wedding registries were used by Occupy Sandy to help crowdfund personalized help for people hurt by the superstorm. Helping Chuck get a spine is definitely a form of participatory aid!)

Indeed, it’s really simple. The only complicated step is deciding who Chuck is getting married to and writing the wedding announcement. I decided that even if it’s a shotgun wedding, it’s clear that Chuck and grassroots Democrats like me are stuck with each other for the next few years, maybe even a lifetime. So I listed the wedding as the marriage of Chuck Schumer and Grassroots Democrats. We’re partners, no gender binary here.

Our wedding message wasn’t that hard to write either. You’ll have to click on the registry page to read it. One nice thing Amazon lets you do is personalize your registry’s URL. I went with

The rest was a blur. What else should we send to Chuck to strengthen his spine? A posture corrector and back brace, definitely.

A spine exerciser? Couldn’t hurt to have one.

What else makes you stronger? First up, some calcium supplement pills to build up more bone strength. I know Chuck’s friend Senator Orrin Hatch, a great friend of the supplement lobby, would approve. And who knows, maybe Chuck’s a bit iron-deficient? I threw in some iron-plus.

Then, obviously, spinach! I don’t know if Chuck likes spinach, and the fresh stuff goes bad fast, so I went with the spinach powder. Maybe his aides can slip it into his scrambled eggs in the morning.

These items are cheap, too. If you can’t afford to give Chuck a spine or a lumber brace, you can certainly send him some vitamins or some spinach.

Surprisingly, for the World’s Biggest Store, Amazon doesn’t have much to sell in the Courage department. I did find some Liquid Courage, which we could all use.

And a set of temporary tattoos, to remind him to put courage above fear.

A compass also seemed like a useful gift. If there was a way to buy him a moral compass, that would be even better. But the Ultimate Survival Technologies Deluxe Map Compass sounded the next best thing.

For moral direction, I picked three books. Why We Can’t Wait, by the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.

Profiles in Courage, by President John F. Kennedy. I have a feeling Chuck already has this, but it’s always worth another reading.

And I threw in one of those “leadership” books, mainly because I liked the cover and the title.

That’s it. If you want to give your member of Congress a backbone, it’s that easy.

Well, actually, it isn’t. You’ve got to join a local group and get organized. Indivisible has got a whole list here. The Action Groups Network has a list here. A group I helped start for the district where I live, New York’s 16th, is here. ResistHere is coordinating weekly rallies at Members’ offices. It doesn’t hurt to give people one-click actions to do, especially if they’re fun and visible, like sending our representatives spines and such. But the real work is in your neighborhood or town, in building local solidarity and face-to-face community organizations that can show up at our elected officials doorsteps, and help hold each other up for the long struggle ahead. Let’s go!