A Sensible Guide to Petitioning
There are a lot of worthy causes out there - too many to name. So many issues need our attention, but we cannot belong to every single one of them. Therefore, we must pick and choose what causes to be a part of and what we can afford to give. Online petitions are one way to get the message across, but there are some standards and guidlines you should set for yourself before adding your name to a petition.
1. Do not agree to anything you are not prepared to do. If you are not one hundred percent sure what an organization will do with your donation, don't give it. By joining an organization, you will inevitably end up on a list of some kind. Only support organizations you know you can trust. Trustworthy organizations will let you opt out of membership and will not force you into any action you do not support. Even if you believe a cause is just, if you are not committed to joining in gatherings or marches, you do not have to put yourself in harm's way unless you are willing to face the consequences of your actions.
2. Do not threaten to commit unlawful acts if you don't get your way. Nonviolence and patience are the keys to getting anything done. Any unlawful actions on your part will be held against you and hurt your cause rather than help it. No one needs negative attention. Furthermore, avoid putting yourself in dangerous situations whether or not your actions are peaceful. Not everyone views demonstrations the same way, and if you are not prepared to face the consequences of your involvement, walk away from it before it's too late.
3. Use your own words whenever possible. Many online petitions will have a pre-filled-in section that you can edit at your discretion. Even if you agree with the words that have been written, you must speak for yourself as much as possible. If you agree with what's written, then you don't necessarily have to change it. However, if you disagree with what's written and cannot change it, don't bother signing it. If you believe in the cause but not the wording, find another petition or create your own.
4. Stand behind your beliefs without getting overwhelmed. As previously mentioned, there are many worthy causes but a finite amount of resources and time that one person can give. Don't spread yourself too thin. If you can't donate money or go to events, you can sign as many petitions as you want as long as you can keep track of them. Most will go to your senator or representative to Congress unless a specific recipient is indicated regarding certain issues. Not everyone will write back, but you will know when something has been accomplished either by organization newsletters or other media outlets.
5. Don't get discouraged, but know when to quit. Despite uncertain outcomes or defeats, don't stop trying to promote change. If you believe in something, keep writing about it. Write letters to the editor of your local newspaper or blog about it. Again, choose your words carefully. A masterful writer inspires without resorting to inflammatory language. Persuade people to your way of thinking, but if you cannot, you must accept defeat gracefully. You cannot win them all; you can only stand up for what you believe is right. Though you may be ridiculed or harangued by people who disagree with you, stick by your beliefs. See both sides of the issue, and speak and act in fairness.