One of the internet’s main advantages is the opportunity to make one’s voice heard, however small. Our opportunity to support change has never been greater. If we can’t personally command attention, we can join with others to promote causes in common. I don’t look for bandwagons to jump on, but as issues present themselves I consider if my signature will advance a good cause. (If not mine, I don’t sign.)
Change.org, the world’s largest petition platform, recently invited me to introduce my own petition. My mind went blank, even though I’m aware of social discontent on many levels, and I’ve joined others with alacrity; so I reviewed some of the petitions I’ve signed in recent months to analyze where my sympathies lie.
Those who start petitions are everyday people who want to make a difference, not seasoned activists. Often it’s an issue brought home to them by personal experience, like John who started a petition to ensure his mother’s cancer treatment would be covered by her insurance, and like Omotayo who sought to change the name of a high school bearing the name of a KKK leader.
After an incident to which the police were called, JP’s mother was sitting in her truck with him outside their home when police arrived. Instead of talking about what happened the police pointed a rifle at both of them and within moments JP who had his hands in the air, was Tased by an officer, causing his hands to drop down. Another officer, using her high powered rifle, shot JP twice in the chest, later claiming she thought he was reaching for his waistband. It’s established that he was unarmed when shot; the mother was asking state officials to investigate her son’s killing, and for the officer to be held accountable.
An animal lover asked Hermes to stop their supplier’s unethical farming of alligators and crocodiles in concrete pens in Africa to provide skins for handbags. A single Hermes Kelly bag made from baby alligator skin costs $43,000, for which the alligators spend their lives packed in fetid conditions ended by painful slaughter, so their bellies can be used for these luxury goods. The thought of anyone paying $43k for a handbag was to me as outrageous as the cruelty. How come such self-indulgence when there are hungry children everywhere?
Autistic 11 year old Kayleb was charged by a school resource officer with disorderly conduct after he was seen kicking a trash can in the school office. The following month the officer charged Kayleb again with disorderly conduct as well as felony assault on a police officer. The boy had walked out of class without permission and when the principal sent the officer to get him, a cop grabbed the boy, who struggled to break free, and then wrestled the boy to the floor. He was arrested and handcuffed for three hours at school and during transit to juvenile hall. His mother is trying to stop her autistic son having a police record and requested a hearing.
A father brought to our attention his son Jeremy who has been given 70 years in prison for stealing from two houses while the residents were out. California has the toughest 3-strikes law allowing life sentences for property theft. Jeremy had two prior nonviolent offenses and the judge enforced the law to the fullest. Under previous California law he would most likely have been sentenced to 12-15 years in prison but he received a harsher sentence than drug cartel hit men who had confessed to killing more than 20 people, who only got 25 years to life. That Jeremy was dealing with drug addiction and depression doesn’t excuse his conduct, but 70 years to life with no credits allowed, means he won’t be eligible for parole until he is 96, costing $5,000,000 dollars to taxpayers. This doesn’t make sense on any level.
A son whose father Jeff (61) has been in prison for 20 years with no possibility of parole was sentenced to die in prison for non-violent marijuana-only offenses under the 3-strikes mandatory sentencing policy in the State of Missouri. His first offense was to sell an ounce in 1984 to an undercover informant, and the police found half a pound of marijuana when they raided his house next day. His next offense occurred in 1991 when he was caught in possession of a couple of ounces, but his final strike in 1993 was when driving a friend to a deal that turned out to be a sting operation. The other convicted men involved were set free years ago, but Jeff was given a virtual death sentence. For 20 years in prison he watched violent criminals, rapists and murderers released after “paying their debts.” It cost the State of Missouri $22,000 a year to keep him locked up while generations of grandchildren have been born in his family whom he’d never met. 390,000 plus signatures supported this petition and Jeff was freed after a “Without Parole” hearing.
“What the Fork Are You Doing With Your Produce, Walmart and Whole Foods?” – 17.5 million American households faced hunger in 2013 while billions of pounds of healthy fresh fruit and vegetables go uneaten because they’re not uniform. While low income families can’t afford fresh fruit and vegetables, we throw away 26% of all produce before it reaches the store as it’s deemed “ugly.” UglyFruitandVegetables.org aims to stop massive waste of produce. Such fruit and vegetables are sold in Europe, Australia and Canada at 30% discount for not quite perfect specimens. I’d buy it.
People in Denver who tried to feed the homeless were threatened by a fine or jail time if they continued to do so. It was argued that it does more harm than good to feed a homeless person, and vagrants should be moved out of town as being “bad for business.” People say “they can go to a soup kitchen, or a homeless shelter” but shelters don’t have the room to cope when for 100 homeless people there are 26 openings in a shelter. People are homeless because of shortage of jobs, unaffordable housing and mental handicaps, not because someone fed them compassionately.
A parent writes: On August 5, 2014, our lives changed forever. Our unarmed son John Crawford III was killed by police while shopping at Walmart in Beavercreek, Ohio. He was shopping like any other customer in the store, looking at a few items on the shelf, holding a toy BB gun he might buy and talking on his phone with the mother of his two children. Everything was normal until a police officer suddenly began shooting him without any warning. The petition was to have this matter investigated, which should happen routinely, not needing a petition.
Protestors query high cancer drug prices, which have increased more than tenfold between 2000 (average $5-10k per year) and today (average price on new cancer drugs exceeds $120,000 per year). Since Americans have a 1 in 3 lifetime chance of developing cancer, this should be a popular move. The average household income today for a family of four is $52,000, down 8% from a decade ago. The choice is between $25,000 a year out-of-pocket expenses even with insurance, on an average income, or forgoing treatment to support the family, foreshortening the lives of patients who cannot afford it. This is unacceptable in a developed country.
Endangered African animals such as rhinos, leopards and lions are being hunted and poached to extinction. South African Airways recently went back on its commitment to ban transport of these trophy animals and people were asked to sign a petition to airlines to stop transporting trophies. Over 600,000 people signed that petition. They reported a measure of success, that Delta has taken a stand against trophy hunting: “Effective immediately, Delta will officially ban shipment of all lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo trophies worldwide as freight.”
A petition was started, calling on a particular Circus to stop using elephants and turn them over to an elephant sanctuary. “An elephant handler was caught striking an elephant with an object he was swinging like a baseball bat. There’s video evidence of training employees to strike their elephants with such force that it makes them scream. Trainers are advised to sink bull-hooks into the elephants’ skin and twist until the animals cry out.” How does this rate as entertainment? Recently the US Department of Agriculture cited this circus for failure to provide veterinary care and minimum space. See a complete list of USDA violations of the Animal Welfare Act by circuses, listed on circuses.com.
Another issue I’ve signed to support: Planned Parenthood has launched a petition to maintain its funding. It’s a no brainer to control family size, especially for low income families. Since Republicans can’t pass a stand-alone bill to defund Planned Parenthood, Republicans are now threatening to shut down the government if Democrats don’t agree to a budget that cuts Planned Parenthood funding.
Most of the petitions I would launch personally would be taken care of by an increased majority of Democrats. Consider the issues being raised by Bernie Sanders who speaks to my condition every time he opens his mouth. But you’ll have to wait until November 2016 to “sign here.”