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Raising the Voice of the American PEOPLE
Socrates believed that democracy was the worst form of government, for two reasons: people are not equal, and so should not have equal input in government processes; citizens get politically apathetic, allowing their government to stray from its purpose. Democracy, he theorized, would inevitably become a tyranny.
We the People
As a nation, we are facing significant challenges to our quality of life. Immigration reform, education reform, health care reform, climate change, challenges to attaining meaningful employment, poverty reduction, women's rights, voting rights, and the increasing cost of higher education are just a few issues plaguing the people.
With this being said, our quality of life and community depend on a strong government. We vote representatives into office that we hold accountable for solving these issues at the local and national levels. These representatives, both the House of Representatives and the Senate, make up the Congress we have all come to despise for their inefficiency.
Of all of the citizens that make up America, only 14% have faith in Congress' ability to effectively address our issues.
And "Them" the Government
Our government is stifled by a number of issues at the Congressional level. Bottom line, the politics of our contemporary Congress inhibits any real reform from being possible. The infighting between Democrats and Republicans and the endless campaigning for funds empowers the rich to leverage the government in ways that "the People" cannot. Harvard professor (and one of my favorite authors) Lawrence Lessig addresses this reality in his book, Republic, Lost. It is truly brilliant, and is a must read for all Americans who feel hopeless about the current political state of our nation.
Essentially, Lessig sheds light on the significance in the perception that money buys power on Capitol Hill. Most Americans perceive that money outweighs their votes, as well. Lessig asserts that even the belief that money influences legislation impacts the quality of our democracy.
Perception is reality, they say. Lessig goes there too. In several chapters, he evidences examples of money influencing public policy. Congress is suffering from dependence corruption.
The independence of Congress means that this body is completely dependent upon the People alone. The nature of the game (competition between political parties) and the mechanism used to play this game (campaign fundraising) leaves Congress susceptible to other agendas. Namely, the will of the people gets diminished over the will of the campaign funders. Our government is held hostage in activities that divert their attention from us. This deviation from the true purpose of our government, by the People, for the People, is called dependence corruption.
196% Americans, the .0000063% of America gave "almost 80% of the names spent by Super PACs in the first quarter of 2012". Dependence corruption, then, is a threat to the other 99.9999937% of us. Whether black or white, Republican or Democrat, hearing or deaf, average or special education... we are all affected. I excluded rich and poor, because that is obviously the issue here.
Do you believe in the ability of Congress to solve our problems?
Back to US
Corruption, or deviation from the purpose of Congress, is our common enemy. Not each other. The media works to keep us divided. We often place ourselves in groups or identify with the more obvious commonalities like race, religion, class etc. But we ignore the more obvious bonds we share. We all want to live in a safe community where there are opportunities for meaningful employment, where our children are safe and have a healthy planet to depend on for generations.Life, liberty, prosperity... these are the principles on which America was founded.
If most of us want this, then why is it not translated into action? Why are we falling through the cracks when it is us, the middle class, that is America's financial skeleton?
Corporations and companies use their vast wealth and influence to bend policy in a way that is counterproductive to our aims-- a lobbyist for a gas corp offers to throw a fundraiser for a politician, who is stressed over furthering both the party and his/her personal ambitions. This representative accepts, and now is in debt to the lobbyist. Although this is not a bribe, and no laws were broken, it is an exchange nonetheless. A gift economy is the mechanism that disenfranchises those who are not in a similar position to leverage politics.
Therefore, the cause of the hopeful but less wealthy environmentalist gets silenced over the cheers of the singularly ambitious during a political fundraiser.This is the core of the political apathy that has plagued us. We acknowledge that there are threats to our survival as humans, and our way of life as Americans, but "it is what it is" keeps us from acting. We would rather accept the status quo as flawed as it is, then try to do something about it and fail.
The most important step you can take to demand better governance is by having a conversation. Engage a neighbor, coworker, friends and family about what you have read here. Give them this url so they can explore the links at the end of the Hub.
Secondly, explore the internet to discover more about the issues that affect you. Maybe you went to the doctor and felt that the bill was outrageous. That is when you go online and research the controversial "Affordable Care Act" and come to your own opinion about how Congress is reforming your access to healthcare.There are people who have conducted research about environment and development, climate change, education reform, and yes- healthcare. Use technology to pick their brains. Allow their years of research to provide a moments insight into whats going on in Washington, and in your neighborhood.
Lastly, be the change you want to see in people. Reach out to our national representatives about what affects you. Did the Chris Christie scandal with the Port Authority that lead to lane closures on the George Washington bridge affect your commute? Say something. Fight the political coma--ignorance is not bliss.
Occupy Wall Street had it right; the 99% of us should act as one.
The Sleeping Giant
According to the May 20, 2013 issue of TIME magazine, we have a saving grace. Titled, "The New Greatest Generation: Why Millenials Will Save Us All", Joel Stein assesses the value of the nations most narcissistic, self entitled generation. He finds that our generation has more in common worldwide than we do with our elders. We are creative, innovative and are a threat to the system. How? Stein claims we are growing up without one. If music is too expensive, we hack. We use our understanding of the digital world to level the playing field.
Despite our promise, we fail to act. Stein reports that we are less politically engaged than generations before us in a significant way. People my age do not vote. They don't know their rights. But if we were more politically connected, we could change everything.
We are color blind, religiously tolerant, creative, proactive and a force to be acknowledged. We just need to educate ourselves about the cycle of corruption that weakens our voices.
I think there is a beauty in what technology offers. Despite the ridiculous selfies, self-pitying Facebook posts, absurd tweets and redundant hash-tags, social media offers people a way to connect unlike ever before.
Let's use that to our advantage. Why are we not more able to get on the same page with the resources we have at our disposal? Facebook was said to influence the Arab Spring revolutions. What does it take for us to get the conversation started?
Use the links I provide to become more engaged. The answer lies within the ability we have to rebuild some form of community, since we do not go to town meetings anymore. Maybe the online community will be loud enough for someone to hear.
Do you share the pessimism of our time-- does voting matter?
White House Switchboard (202) 456-1414
U.S. Senate/ House of Representatives (202) 224-3121
ACLU National Office (212) 549-2500
- Home | Rootstrikers
Started by Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig, this website offers you ways to get engaged and become knowledgeable about Congress and how they spend your money! Rootstrikers fight the corrupting influence of money in politics. Become a Rootstriker!
- U.S. PIRG | The Federation of State PIRGs
U.S. PIRG stands up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democracy.
- American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
Another useful website that connects you to the threats to our democracy, and the rights numerous Americans have shed blood to make possible for our children. Become more aware of what's going on behind closed doors!
- U.S. Congress Campaign Contributions and Voting Database | MapLight - Money and Politics
MapLight U.S. Congress illuminates the connection between campaign contributions and legislative votes in unprecedented ways. Elected officials collect large sums of money to run their campaigns, and they often pay back campaign contributors with spe
- OpenSecrets.org: Money in Politics -- See Who's Giving & Who's Getting
OpenSecrets.org is the most comprehensive resource for federal campaign contributions, lobbying data and analysis available anywhere. We help you follow the money in Washington, D.C.
Description From the Right and the Left, citizens are increasingly coming to recognize that our democracy does not work as our Framers intended. Reform of any kind is stalled by a status quo that profits from blocking change. Join us.
© 2014 Jasmin Vazquez