Used to be, the main drawback of launching a nationwide protest was that you just couldn’t manage to fit it into your daily schedule.
Sure, you’d love to spur massive societal change. But after you leave your 9-to-5 job, drop off the dry-cleaning, pick up the kids from karate practice and scarf down dinner just in time for the new episode of Duck Dynasty, honestly, who has the time?
All that has changed. Now you can just launch an online petition.
Heaven knows everyone else has.
THEY’RE EVERYWHERE. A petition in Wichita, Kan., is calling for an abortion clinic to stay closed. A petition in Middlesboro, Ky., wants to keep school-system health clinics from shrinking or closing. A petition in St. Regis, Mont., is expressing a no-confidence vote against its school board. A petition in Derry Township, Pa., is pushing to stop the opening of a Chipotle chain restaurant in a historic neighborhood.
Do petitions work? Why, of course they do, according to the utterly unbiased website thepetitionsite.com, touting itself as “the No. 1 petition site in the world.”
“The more people speak out – via online and real-life communities, social media and citizen journalism – the more an issue is noticed, and the less an issue can be ignored,” the site says. “Governments, corporations and societies are forced to listen and make changes.”
Or not. Ask the 2,480 folks who thought the name Georgia Regents University was a wretched idea and signed an online petition calling to merge Augusta State University and Georgia Health Sciences University under the more euphonious name “University of Augusta.” No dice. The last optimistic person seemed to have signed the petition Dec. 29, probably weeks after officials had selected the colors for GRU faculty stationery.
If you’re one of the dozen or so people who watch Piers Morgan on CNN, you might have seen him chatting last week with a guy named Alex Jones. Why? Jones started an online petition calling for Morgan’s deportation back to his native Britain because of his views on gun control.
Jones filed his petition on the increasingly popular “We the People” section of the White House’s website. You can, too. And the White House promises if a petition garners enough signatures, “White House staff will review it, ensure it’s sent to the appropriate policy experts and issue an official response.”
I LAUGHED out loud, too. But the White House actually has responded, most recently regarding three petitions calling for marijuana legalization. (Spoiler alert: It’s still “no.”)
A lot of the petition’s subjects go downhill from there. Here are some of the others:
• “Publicly admit and disclose all information about extraterrestrial beings, our true history and peaceful technologies.” Is that all?
• “Authorize the production of a recurring television program featuring Vice President Joe Biden.” Like, Here Comes Joey Boo Boo?
• “Direct the United States Mint to make a single platinum trillion-dollar coin.” Because so many people are sick of lugging around all those billion-dollar coins.
• “Ban Dianne Feinstein.” Yes, the U.S. senator from California. No, I don’t know how you go about “banning” a senator.
• “Assign NASA to do a feasibility study and conceptual design of the Gen1 USS Enterprise interplanetary spaceship.” Yes, the totally fictional spaceship from Star Trek. And sweet fancy Moses, they even have a website – BuildTheEnterprise.org.
• “Ask Gov. Jerry Brown to give California ferret owners a fair hearing.” I – what?
And all the nutty petitions come full circle with a petition that kind of has figured the whole thing out: “Shut down the White House Petitions website.”
So I can’t pass up this opportunity. It’s right there at the tail end of our Constitution’s First Amendment: an American’s right “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
So I’ve started my own White House petition. It’s titled “Stop the spread of frivolous petitions.” It reads:
“THE WHITE House’s ‘We the People’ petition website unfortunately has been swamped with rash, ill-conceived and frivolous proposals that clearly contradict the more serious intent of the First Amendment to allow citizens to ‘petition the Government for a redress of grievances.’ Petitions asking to study the feasibility of constructing a fictional spacecraft from the television show Star Trek, or asking California’s governor to give ‘a fair hearing’ to ferret owners, abuses and mocks one of the Founding Fathers’ many constitutional gifts to America. This petition calls for clearly untenable petitions to be categorized as ‘Officially Flaky’ by designated, qualified White House staff, yet preserved on the website in the interest of free speech and for humor purposes.”
The web link to the petition is http://wh.gov/PGW4 if you’re inclined to sign it. I’m betting that, according to thepetitionsite.com, the powers-that-be will be “forced to listen and make changes.”