Monday, December 12, 2005

I stand with PACT ... as soon as I get off this bar stool

For the second week in a row, I spent a good portion of my weekend with the young people of Chicago, looking to make a difference (at least in my attitude if not the world). Last week, the American Democracy Institute. This week, Public Action for Change Today. Rod Blagojevich spoke at both, and I really wish I took better notes because, both times, he said almost the same things, things like: "You're too young to be cynical. Your idealism is critical."

I suppose you could say I'm not "too young" anymore. You could say I've lost some of that idealistic spirit. Listening to speakers at both events, I couldn't help thinking how nice it was for all these 16 to 35 year olds thinking they can make some sort of difference in society. But what Blagojevich and Hillary Clinton and Judy Baar Topinka and all the other politicians who stopped by at these events know is that young people will never be a political force to be reckoned with. First of all, their attention spans are too short. Second, they grow up between elections, as do their ideologies and political philosophies.

In fact, after giving it some thought while washing some dishes just now, I've come to realize that there's only one way to make young people politically active: Hold elections every six months. Think about it. If politicians knew they only had six months, they'd work their butts off to make some changes. They'd listen. If they didn't, they'd be out, and the next one would be there trying to make some changes. Elected officials would more closely reflect the current mood of the country. We're pissed, let's go to war! On second thought, attacking was a bad idea, let's get out! Back and forth, constant change. Under this system, Howard Dean would have gotten elected. Ralph Nader would have been given a chance. George Bush would be out many elections ago. And people would pay attention because they'd have no choice. The airwaves would be constantly filled with political messages and advertisements. Rallies and marches would fill the streets. People would be knocking on doors year-round, gathering support, listening to concerns.

Furthermore, under this system, I say we let online voters decide most issues. Do we authorize the war? Should we spend the money on schools? On health care? Click yes or no. And off we go, young people involved.

Now, if you're still reading, you might think this idea is slightly ridiculous. Fine, maybe you're the one that's cynical. But that's what I thought of the ideas of PACT "caucus leaders" who made verbal "commitments for action" in front of 2,000 people at the Rockefeller Chapel in Hyde Park yesterday. One group will meet with all 50 Chicago aldermen by March 1 to stomp out the homeless problem in the city. Several groups will combine to meet with 1,000 police officers to discuss police brutality by Dec. 1. Nice goals and I applaud their efforts, but will they achieve anything? The police issue, for instance, won't be solved that easily because, every year, there are hundreds of officers joining the force and thousands of young people hitting their teen years and causing trouble. You could meet with 1,000 officers every single year, but when those officers are in a tense situation, will they really care about that little chat they had with you?

Anyway, I know I'm sounding like a downer--sort of like Topinka in her remarks yesterday--so I will publicly admit that I was a little inspired by the event. As person after person stepped up to the microphone and made a pledge, I formulated one of my own, one that I think can bring about lasting change in me if not in this city. Here it is:

Today I stand with PACT! As the leader of they newly formed Beer Drinkers Caucus, I commit to visiting 100 bars covering each of the 50 wards in the next year. I commit to listening to 100 bartenders tell it like it is. I commit to making a vague and unintelligent pass at 100 women. I commit to use my powers of persuasion to convince 100 bouncers not to beat me up. I make sway a little, I may stumble, but I stand with PACT. Who's with me?

2 Comments:

Anonymous The mom said...

I'm not sure I stand with you, but if you go to this link you're sure to find somebody that will.
http://www.banditos.info/speles/sobersanta2.swf
Promise.
Cross my heart, etc.
Would I lie???

10:28 AM  
Anonymous art attack said...

after you visit all the wards in the city, how about next month going to the burbs and hitting all the bars out there. Sure you will have to drive farther, but the big hair and bad fashions will be worth it.

8:55 AM  

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