Walrath: We must not so freely give our consent to lawmakers

August 29, 2013 

Walrath

— The Declaration of Independence notes that governments derive “their just powers from the consent of the governed.” But what does “the consent of the governed” mean today? In an age where we can communicate with someone across the world by pressing buttons on a tiny computer in our pockets, we do not have the gumption as an electorate to demand that our representatives yield to our consent.

Recently, I contacted Rep. Joe Wilson, Sen. Lindsey Graham and President Barack Obama to express my concern regarding the supply of small arms to rebels in Syria, which have made their allegiance to the extremist factions Al-Nusra and Al Qaeda clear. I received one response, from Rep. Wilson, who indicated he welcomed my interest, as if I were a student attending a lecture.

Although I appreciated Rep. Wilson’s reply in the absence of others, I found it exceedingly patronizing — and herein lies the problem. We are not the government’s clientele. Our government is the enterprise, and we are the investors. Investors who merely show up once every two years to vote in new board members will see their investment significantly diminished and their interests unrepresented.

Our modern interpretation of what it means to be part of a democratic republic is that our votes are the full extent of our voices, implying consent for the full term periods of our representatives. This cannot continue. Our voices must be raised continually. We must be faithful investors, consistently monitoring and managing our investment.

Our representatives are not our parents, teachers or babysitters. For too long, we have acted as children, leaving the responsibility and decision-making to the adults. It is time to leave the kids’ table. It is time to hold our representatives accountable for our interests. Each citizen should contact her representatives at least once per month to raise concerns or voice approval.

We have become lazy investors, and consequently our representatives have become entitled, with no perceived obligation to yield to our interests. Refusing to engage our representatives makes a mockery out of that document that we claim to prize so dearly, which set the foundation for freedom. We are enslaved by our own apathy. It is time to break free.

Stephanie Walrath

Columbia

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