Political Impotence, Terrorists, and the Internet
I have a confession to make. I am impotent. I know what you’re thinking but that’s not it. What I mean is I suffer from political impotence. As a citizen, I am powerless.
“Why not run for office?” That’s what one friend suggests when I tell her about my little predicament. But that suggestion just reinforces my diagnosis: if I must be elected to office to have any influence, then as a citizen I am precisely what I have said: powerless.
I typed this essay at the same town library where some of the 9/11 terrorists are thought to have bought their plane tickets. Maybe I even used the same computer that they did. I believe that those young men–those terrorists–also felt politically impotent. They tried to seize power by attacking the establishment. But I envision a different fix for my political impotence. I’ll come to that in a minute. First, let’s be sure the problem is clear.
My problem is that I am silent. The most important issues of the day are being decided for me and I have no say. Universal health care, immigration reform, the authorization of war–all issues dear to me–are being decided for me by a small group of elected officials who never consult me. One of those officials, my U.S. Representative, speaks for me on these and other issues, but he doesn’t even know me. Indeed, not once since I first registered to vote almost 20 years ago has a U.S. representative ever asked me for my opinion on anything. So, I am powerless because I have no voice.
“Write your representative,” I am told, but I believe that my representative should write me. After all, how can he speak for me if he doesn’t even know me? I believe he should ask me and all of his constituents how we want him to vote on laws proposed in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Enter the Internet. I believe that the Web has the power to end my impotence by adding my voice–the citizen’s voice–to the dictates of government. My representative in Washington, D.C., can easily poll me and all of his constituents electronically on every bill up for a vote. Whether my representative agrees with me is beside the point. That he hear me and consult me–that is the goal–that is vital.
The 9/11 terrorists and I may have used the same computer in our struggles against political impotence, but the ends to which we put this technology couldn’t be more different. I propose using that same computer, not to buy a plane ticket to smash into a tower, but rather as a conduit to power. I believe that if citizens are given a say in shaping our shared political destiny, there will be less discord and more harmony. So here, I, citizen, petition you, government, to hear me out, to listen to my voice, and to make it count. Amen.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.