29 January 2013

Demonstrations in liberty

These days there seems to be plenty of room to doubt the "Of the people, by the people, for the people" ideal that has historically been, at least in theory, the backbone of our nation. How much does your voice really matter? How often is the average person heard? Aren't our questionable politicians and big businesses really running the show these days? If you don't make millions, does your citizenship even count?

I know I sound like a pessimist, and there are certainly times when I feel that way. I seriously question at times how much of a difference I can make. And I don't think I'm the only one. That is one factor, I believe, in the increasingly whinny, but persistently inactive political discussions that I hear coming from all directions most of the time. And even if it isn't exactly excusable, it is certainly understandable. Many of us don't feel like there is much we can actually do to make a difference.

But in reality, I don't think it's true. We, all of us, individuals, can actually have a great impact on our nation, our communities and even the world. We just have to know where to look and do the things we really can do. Just as one important, if slightly odd, example are online petitions.

Yes, yes. I know what you're thinking. Those lame emails and Facebook promptings we all get to "sign your support" and "join the petition" to change the world. Can those possibly be more than some cheesy gimmick? Can typing your name on a list actually make a difference? And isn't that a pretty silly and even lazy way to "make a difference"?

Maybe. Yet I still think that, in some ways, these online petitions are actually a beacon of hope and an updated nod to a past of political and social activism that can appeal to many people living in today's digital world. Pledging your support on a petition can make the difference necessary to sway political decisions and show where public opinion really lies on important issues. There are many sites these days like Change.org that allow people to make online petitions and rally for support from unknown strangers who commiserate with the originator's concerns. And together, they actually do change things. From legislation to store policies to justice for the falsely accused or support for causes from around the world, many of the petitions get enough signatures to get noticed at least. And sometimes they even succeed in making an important change! Rather often.

So, is it worth it to sign an online petition? I think so. At least, I think it is if you care about the issue being petitioned and you are someone who think wants to be involved in righting wrongs and affecting change.

Now, I don't pretend that signing petitions, even if you did it all day everyday, would amount to being actively involved in making the world a better place or would suffice in doing our civic duties. There are far too many people who need our help and far too many projects that need hands and brains and hearts invested in making them work. We can and should be involved in every way we can.

Yet, there is something very beautiful about the power of people coming together, even it is just online. Because we do have a say. We do make a difference. And the things you sign your name to do say something about who you are and what you stand for. It is important to make those things known.

By the way, this all came up because of this petition to help save wolves. I signed it and you might want to too. Or not. All I'm saying is, don't discount the small things. In the end, they do all add up. Sometimes I think it is in the small things that we will find the greatest hope.

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