Political and stuff

By Jacqui Detwiler (U-Wire)

DURHAM, N.C. – Like many young Americans, I have run smack-dab into a wall of political ineffectualness. Whereas in high school I wrote essays on the mistreatment of women under the Taliban regime, and in college held weekly debates on the Iraq war against my warmongering, NRA-card-carrying dormmate, lately I can’t even muster the energy to support my most deeply held beliefs in a political arena. Apparently it takes a mere four or five years of futile harangues on the incoherence of the current president and his cronies before one curls up in a corner and intellectually dies.

Sometimes I even find myself thinking, if a Roe v. Wade supporter pickets in a forest, and no one is there to hear her… does she really make a sound?

The thing is, I am not alone in feeling this way. The alarming lack of young voter turnout in the 2004 and 2006 elections indicates that many of the under-30 set feel their individual voices just don’t matter. Short of manning a talk radio show or scoring a seat in the Senate, how can a regular guy make an impact at any level above his college or local community?

Well, there are the usual candidates-marches, riots, hunger strikes, picket signs, starting at the local government and pushing until you manage to shove one of the higher-ups by accident. But given the fact that many of us hold jobs and can’t rally the equipment or manpower for a march or practicable hunger strike (and that riots generally suck for most involved), what is a college student with an opinion to do?

Enter e-activism. A field that started out as a set of e-mail chain letters has morphed into an Internet industry in which you can select your causes, sign petitions and be reminded of the current national and international injustices from the comfort of your desk. Women’s rights junkie? Join the Planned Parenthood Action Fund e-mail list and receive notices of women’s rights petitions you can sign right there online. Can’t stand the way people practicing alternative lifestyles are treated by the government? Sign petitions for equality at www.equalitync.org, which are sent to North Carolina legislators. Genocide in Darfur your personal anathema? Read a blog on the progress of the cause and find out how to get involved at www.savedarfur.com, and even sign up to receive e-mail updates. In short, no matter your political passion, there’s a way to stay current and at least feel like you’re making an impact without quitting school and chaining yourself to (or against?) a legion of hippies. Although, for the record, those chain letters still do little more than irritate the hell out of everyone. Although e-activism won’t make you a modern day Gandhi, at the very least, it’s likely to raise awareness and a sense of relevance. For those who are already heavily involved, it’s like activism lite, but for those of us who have been out of the game for awhile, it may just preserve our sense of effectualness for a day when a legitimate need for a hunger strike arises.

In the past three weeks I have signed three petitions-more than I have in years-two on issues I’ll fight for till the day I die, and the other on an issue about which I didn’t even realize I had an opinion. In a world that is decidedly not black and white, it’s important to determine where you stand among the gray. Although I still wish I were slightly more involved, I think figuring out where and in which direction to start shouting in the forest of causes is the first step to being heard. For now, in between answering e-mails and writing papers, I am an e-activist… because sometimes I want to be political and stuff, too.