By David Swanson
It sounds silly, but for a long time it just didn’t occur to me what the implications would be. Thus spake a college student who agreed to ask Senator Clinton a planted question. And thus, alas, must I speak as well.
Senator Clinton asked me to impersonate a citizen of the United States, and I was tempted to play along. The assignment she had marked “(citizen)” on the script on her clipboard, read:
“A citizen is a member of an electorate. A citizen’s job consists of voting. A citizen may also spend the two years in between elections thinking about how he or she will vote (but not about who will count the votes). In between elections, citizens should not imagine they can influence their representatives. Public demonstrations, lobbying, media activism, media production, and civil disobedience are not proper citizen activities unless professionally organized to target exclusively Republicans. A citizen’s loyalty is to his or her Party. For the sake of your Party you must accept such compromises as voting for a candidate who supports a massive military and empire that you oppose, or corporate trade agreements that you oppose, or private health insurance companies that you oppose, or lobbyists whom you oppose, etc. This is more easily done when a candidate expresses all possible positions, because you can then believe the position you prefer and act as though you did not hear the other positions expressed. Ultimately, a citizen should reach the full understanding of issues and positions as tools to aid the higher goal of elections. The greater good of elections outweighs, surprisingly enough, even genocide, and remarkably enough, even the maintenance of a credible electoral system! The importance of electing a president even outweighs the question of whether we will have any presidents in the future or instead have all-powerful dictators. That’s an issue for each president to work out once the election is won. Understanding the greater good of the election makes citizens wise enough to engage in necessary minor infractions, such as pretending to be reporters. Those who have perfected this talent will find full employment in the print and broadcast industries, and it is those industries that should tell the citizens whom to vote for.”
When I first saw this assignment on Clinton’s clipboard, I was so eager to be a part of her campaign that I nodded my head in speechless agreement and peed my pants with excitement. But after several hours I hesitantly raised my hand and asked the Senator a question:
“Senator Clinton, I’m so thrilled to be able to play the part of citizen. I’ve been practicing for it ever since last semester. But I wonder, and you can tell me if not, but I wonder if it would be just as good if I played it in the way that I had in mind when your goons offered me the free ticket and stuck me in their van. Specifically, could I base my performance on the role I find in the U.S. Constitution, in the writings of our founding fathers, in the teachings of the most useful and beneficial Americans of the past 230 years, and the lessons of democratic successes from around the world? Would that be OK? Can I devote most of my energy to influencing our government in between elections? Can I put a focus, when appropriate, on the one process that the Constitution brings up 6 times and takes the time to explain to us, namely impeachment? Can I force my views in any way possible into the corrupt corporate media monopoly that your husband bequeathed us? Can I go to jail for justice when I believe it will save others from harm? Can I refuse illegal orders and unconstitutional laws? Can I tear down the fences around the free speech zones and the $2,000 campaign dinners and declare the entire land of the free and home of the brave a free speech country? Can I stop giving you and your media friends all my money, and instead invest in creating new media outlets free from corporate interests and advertisers? Can I vote for individuals, rather than for parties? Can I base my vote for an individual on what I think he or she will do of substance if elected? And if my television tells me to vote for one candidate, and makes a joke of a second candidate, but I don’t consider the first candidate worthy of cleaning dogshit off the second candidate’s shoes, can I go with my heart instead of my television? I’m just asking.”