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Editor of the Reformer,

Whether it's Trump's machiavellian push to get funding for building the border wall or US sanctions against Maduro officials, one thing is clear: democracy is in crisis. Things are turning autocratic right before our eyes and it feels as if all we can do is just helplessly watch it unfold. But is it not our liberty, guaranteed by the First Amendment, to petition the Government with grievances? I have recently had the chance to learn more about the work of The Borgen Project, which is a nonprofit dedicated to tackling extreme poverty through advocacy. They mobilize constituents to influence their Congress leaders in making poverty-reducing legislation a focus of U.S. foreign policy. Currently, such legislation really isn't the focus. On average, Americans estimate that 20 percent of the federal budget goes to foreign aid but, in reality, less than 1 percent goes to assisting the world's poor. But beyond the imperative of getting people out of abject and inhumane conditions using the resources that are available but simply aren't being allocated right now, what The Borgen Project does is encourage people to practice democracy. Calling or emailing your elected officials and asking them to support the legislation you have researched and thought thoroughly about is an act of political engagement. If we want democracy then we must also be active in building it. High-profile legislation can be difficult to influence but our inaction doesn't make it any easier. A lot of low-profile legislation (like research funding allocation) still affects our everyday lives. So when we're caught in disbelief and shock about the political decisions being made, I think we need to remember that we must demand to be part of that decision-making process and reaching out to Congress is just one, small way of doing that.

Merisa Muharemovic

Brattleboro, Feb. 16