CLAIM

If you die, you can send your ashes to legislators as one final act of protest.

TRUE

RATING

TRUE

ORIGIN

If you die an untimely death, can you have your ashes sent to the person of your choice?  What if you would like to send it to your least favorite representative in order to protest legislation they have written or voted for? 

In theory, it is already possible to have your cremated remains sent to Congress, but the idea has gained traction as a political protest since the passage of the American Health Care Act in the House on 4 May 2017.

Shortly after it passed, 20-year-old Zoey Jordan Salsbury revealed that she had created “Mail Me to the GOP”, a web site that offers to help users get their paperwork in order to send their ashes to a “GOP member of Congress” when they die. The site also links to an online fundraiser seeking to unseat the members of Congress who voted for the bill.

Salsbury, a junior at American University who won the President’s Volunteer Service Award alongside a friend last year for her online work, lives with depression and anxiety, and was also diagnosed with fibromyalgia in November 2016. She told us:

I have several pre-existing conditions that are out of my control. They are things I was born with. And when you have chronic illnesses you befriend others with chronic illness. So I have friends who I see struggle with expensive care, even with insurance. I know they’ll die if the bill is passed by the Senate. I know I’ll die if I can’t afford my psych and pain meds. And I wanted the GOP to see that.

The website asks users, “Why will you die because of the Republican health care bill?” and asks them to submit responses. As of 8 May 2017, Salsbury said, just over 1,100 people had signed up to take part in the process, adding: “I’m sure there are a few trolls in there, but from what I’ve scrolled through and seen most are genuine.”

However, she said, she will not personally send the cremated remains; instead she planned to help people work with an estate planner in order to make their own arrangements should they choose to follow through with the posthumous protest statement.

But as her site has received more notice, Salsbury said, her server has crashed multiple times. She told us:

I’m really glad that it’s gotten so much attention. I really hope it makes an impact on GOP members of the Senate. It’s been picked up by some right-wing blogs which has made my Twitter mentions and Facebook messages kind of a nightmare, but it’s worth all the hate if even one member of the Senate votes against this bill because of it.

The United States Postal Service does allow the shipment of cremated remains, so long as they are mailed in a package containing padding as well as inner and outer containers. 

Salsbury said she would do more research”on the legalities of sending ashes to lawmaker after the Senate takes up the matter. “Right now I want to concentrate on making sure this bill dies in the Senate, instead of us dying,” Salsbury told us.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has said that her colleagues would start over again “from scratch” instead of considering the House version of the bill. We contacted USPS seeking comment regarding any possible special stipulations regarding mail to the Capitol, but have not yet received a response.

In 1988, artist and photographer David Wojnarowicz captured a similar spirit of protest when he wore a jacket bearing the message, “IF I DIE OF AIDS – FORGET BURIAL – JUST DROP MY BODY ON THE STEPS OF THE FDA” during a demonstration outside the Food and Drug Administration building.

Sources:

Selk, Avi.   “‘Mail My Body to Paul Ryan’: An Extremely Morbid Way to Protest the GOP Health-Care Bill.”
    The Washington Post.   6 May 2017.

Laing, Olivia.   “David Wojnarowicz: Still Fighting Prejudice 24 Years After His Death.”
    The Guardian.   12 May 2016.

United States Postal Service.   “How to Package and Ship Cremated Remains.”
    Accessed 8 May 2017.

McCausland, Phil.   “GOP Sen. Susan Collins Says Senate Will ‘Start From Scratch’ on Health Care Bill.”
    NBC News.   7 May 2017.