Isn't Democracy neat?
In case you haven't heard, the Obama administration is trying a very nifty experiment in open democracy called "We The People" - a government website where you can draw up your own petition of talking points you would like to see discussed by the administration and have people sign it from all over the country. The Obama administration promised to use this tool to determine which issues were really at the heart of most American concerns, and to use this information to bring about positive change for Americans.
Sounds almost Utopian - a service in which you can raise any topic of concern to your representative political body with the promise that it will receive a detailed look if there is enough national interest. The basic rules of the service were that any petition that received over 25,000 signatures within 30 days of originally being posted would receive an official tailored response by a member of the White House staff.
Indeed, when this website was first announced, it seemed like Obama and his team were making an honest attempt at testing the waters regarding American's feelings on a lot of contemporary issues. That is until some of the responses started being released.
Unsurprisingly, supporters for change regarding marijuana legislation teamed together and gathered a staggering number of signatures for their petition - topping the threshold that would demand an official response in its first day. For half a heart-beat, stoners and sobers sympathetic to the cause shared a brief unifying moment of hope, holding on tenaciously to the dream that maybe someone in power would finally lend an interested ear. That is until the site posted their official response from Gil Kerlikowske, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. In his response Gil basically says "Fuck You, hippies. These are the rules." Which of course is the perfect response for anyone hoping to set the stage for constructive democratic discussion. You can read Gil's response here.
Of course, the legalization efforts for marijuana are not the only petitions receiving lip service from the White House. The website also recently published a response to a petition requesting government transparency regarding decades of insinuation that the government is involved in a coverup regarding the presence of extra-terrestrial life. This time the response was tailored by Phil Larson, who works on space policy and communications at the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy. Phil's response was much the same as Gil Kerlikowske's - Fuck Off. Of course, the White House liasons were much more diplomatic in their announcements of a refusal to investigate topics which had received enough public support to elicit an official response.
These are not the only two topics to be glossed over by the Obama administration. Petitions seeking a removal of the words "Under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance, repealing the Defense of Marriage Act - which federally defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, have both tactfully been swept under the rug as a problem for the next group of patsies to seclude themselves in their ivory tower of inaction. Hell, the response to one petition calling for an "Investigation into Allegations of Prosecutorial & Judicial Misconduct in the Case of Sholom Rubashkin" refers the petitioners to a piece of fine print in the terms of participation for the White House's responses, simply saying "We won't comment on this one."
So basically, the timeline goes a little something like this.
*White House launches petition site promising to offer constructive response to any topic that proves to have enough public support
*Americans collectively marvel at the combined wonder of technology and democracy as they begin to believe that politicians may actually start listening
*We the People is flooded with petitions and signatures by the thousands
*White House officials with fancy titles and job descriptions collect a paycheck for sitting down and throwing together what amounts to the same level of effort required by a third grader for an essay assignment (though more likely, these responses were typed up by an unpaid intern and merely signed by those claiming authorship)
*American public once again realizes that their voice and opinion have no strength in the halls of power.
*Life, sadly, goes on.
Three Monkeys Say: Oh Shit! Is Gladiators on??