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Lennard Davis Headshot

Stop Writing Me Joe: How Many Times Can You Ask Me for Money?

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OK guys. I'm officially sick of the letters you are writing me when you pretend to be Joe Biden or Michelle Obama. I know Joe Biden, and you are no Joe Biden.

Deep down inside, I know that the letters I get from an A-list of Democrats are actually not written by those luminaries. I even wonder if they approve of them. Did Joe Biden even really take a few minutes to eye the last letter he sent me?

I'm curious if the copywriter or intern whose job it is to be Joe bothered to notice his speech patters or thought about the best rhetorical device to create Joe's lovable "drunk uncle" tonality?

Generally, those letters I get don't seem to have a personal voice, as if they were written first and then assigned an author afterwards.

They are so impersonal, despite their repeated use of my name. What about a robo-"Skype" call from Barack with a computer-generated personal address: "Hi Lennard, I've been thinking about you lately, and I wondered how it is going?" That's certainly in the realm of possibility.

But the reality is, that these letters imply the weirdest form of intimacy because we all know that the person writing the letter is imitating a public figure. And even weirder than knowing that fact is that we still have some sense that we are actually being written to by Joe or Barack. In literary studies we used to call that "the willing suspension of disbelief" and apply that concept to theater, where we know someone is an actor reading his or her lines and yet we allow ourselves to believe that the person on the stage is "really" Hamlet.

So, when we get our personalized letters from major public figures, are we really allowing ourselves to think we are in some kind of a theatrical play? What kind of a play is it? It's not an obviously comic one, but it could turn out to be a tragedy if we decide not to click on the link and contribute our meager contribution to national politics.

The genius of the automated cyber-ask is that it makes us feel that the election is up to us. We are in the play! Forgo giving your $3 and you'll change the outcome of the election. And when you click on the link to give, after recognizing your crucial role in the success of your candidate, the $3 option is never there. Now you are asked for $15, and if you write $3 in, you appear to be cheap and unconcerned with the fate of crucial issues dependent on your generosity.

Guess what folks? This is a con game. If someone approached you on the street and said, "Hello, I'm Joe Biden and will you give me $10," you know how' you'd react. So why is it that we accede on the Internet and in the privacy of our own homes? It's because, paradoxically, the election is really up to you -- up to the millions of you's that make up the electorate.

So give early and give often, but please could the "asks" just diminish a bit after you've already given instead of increasing exponentially so that Barack and his family are wooing you five times a day and Joe is stalking you outside your house?

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