The above question pops into my head a lot. I get the impression most folks do not know what their government does, or how it works, despite the fact that you are required to spend at least half a school year studying just that, and usually at the end of your intermediate education so it should be fresh in your head. I don’t know, maybe they should do it early, while your little, neural pathways are still developing, kind of the same reason we are encouraged to learn languages young. I suppose it is the language of self governance we are talking about. Who knows? I do know that there is one meme in particular that bugs me in this regard. It is the idea that Congress only works so many days a year.
Hey, I get it. They piss me off too. They certainly don’t do the work they should be doing, the work of the people, instead spending most of their time doing the work of the one tenth of one percent. Also, yes, they probably do get more time off than most folks. That is true of most people who make 200K plus a year. It sucks, but it is true. Most of the complaining I see, however, isn’t about that. It centers around the absurd notion, and you can figure this out by seeing the number of days people think Congress works, that they only work when they are in session. Do folks really know what their elected representatives do?
Much of the work of our elected officials gets done when they are not in your state, or our nation’s, capitals. They work out of their local offices, meeting local movers and shakers (and yes, too often, those movers and shakers do not have our best interest in heart) taking the pulse of their constituents, and doing the research needed to work, in theory, in their best interest. Final drafts of bills may be written while Congress, or your State Legislatures, are in session, but the work of putting those drafts together is often done in the home offices. I will not argue that these guys are avoiding the work they OUGHT to be doing, and working for those other than who they should, but they do work. Maybe not as hard as they think, but that is true of a lot of people.
I wonder if maybe the persistence of this meme is born from our need to view our government as impenetrable. That way we are off the hook. If our legislators are viewed as only working in the grand, intimidating edifices of our capitals, then how can we reach them? It is not our fault, then, that the change we say we want does not happen. It is not our fault that there is so much waste, or that our government supports dictators, or that real and tangible dangers our world faces due to the excesses of our culture are not addressed. Except it is. It is because those people are there, at home, with easy to find office addresses the rest of the year. Yes they take vacations, a lot of people do, but they have to hear you sooner or later. They only do that though, if you speak up, or write, or do YOUR job as a citizen in a participatory democracy. Tell them what you want, and not just by going into that voting booth every other year (though, please, don’t stop doing that) but by telling them what you want. You learned that in school, I know you did, I went to public schools too. Do that, or, better yet, if you think you could do a better job, then run for office yourself. The info is out there, use it and make them work for you, or you are as much a part of the problem as them.