Our leaders are not listening.
America’s government is a business. I have gone from being its customer to being a worker within its bureaucratic structure. I have seen the transactional relationship from both sides.
Yet somehow, I do not feel like I am able to do more. Sometimes a title or position behind my name forces power-wielders to look up as I speak but, overall, I remain as unheard as before. As a consumer, I learned that the masses’ numbers and voices mean little to those representing us. As a worker, I learned that leaders will pretend to care but actually want me to stop working. Or more accurately, to stop doing the jobs they claimed they wanted me to do; to stop listening to the people. Invariably, when a cohort of workers’ efforts are undermined, the rage turns inward rather than at the power structures consistently suffocating us.
My political action started with protests. I had exclusively attended protests to ask for action. I marched on issues ranging from personal ones such as the Pink Tax to ones affecting my allies such as the broken criminal justice system. Our numbers would often provoke at least some action, with political figures trying to secure upcoming elections, but our grievances were rarely addressed unequivocally. Through no fault of our own, we remained locked out of the decisions that our leaders claimed were made thinking of us. Seeking more clarity on the interpretations of the people’s desires, I joined organizations and worked internships that increased my access to representatives.
Now my positioning within the system allows me to talk to these decision-makers more directly. I even get to interact with people like those in the Democratic National Committee who regularly call themselves “allies of people,” like myself. But here I have seen that their desires go beyond the people’s vote. It’s about what’s in it for them.
Senators Joe Machin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) are testaments to this failing method of withholding political power. Regardless of whether legislation on their docket is for clean energy, COVID-19 stimulus checks, or affordable healthcare, the senators never vote to give the people what they need. The combined 1.4 million voters who took a chance on them mean nothing when millions of dollars of Big Pharma and Big Oil money are flowing into the senators’ back pockets. Our relationship with political leaders is far from a wholesome one of the public with their public servants. Every move by our leaders is transactional. Since these transactions put funding over addressing peoples’ plights, those with the biggest checks assert the greatest influence.
Before, I only had enough access to see that my vote was meaningless after the election. But now, when I voice the concerns of the AAPI community, the student population, the LGBTQ+ and BIPOC communities at-large in spaces exclusive to figureheads and the people who work with and for them, I see that statistics and personal grief stand little chance. I am the face of these constituents, yet I often come back to them with none of their needs met.
As a student politician, I naively thought I would have a seat at the table. But the government, like any other profiting entity, feels no urge to listen to their workers. Where companies have at least some responsibility to customers, the government has long lost any desire to earn its constituents’ votes, our votes.
As citizens, we pay them. As interns and employees, we work for them. Instead of using the resources we provide to write policy that ensures the health of the public, they use it to diminish the importance of feeding us. They starve us.
As a constituent-turned-worker navigating the political bureaucracy, I can tell you that our leaders and my bosses are deaf to our pleas.
When our country is facing a labor shortage, when people are dying, when histories of oppression are being erased, we can’t have millionaire public servants saying that they “don’t have an urgency” to spend the money that the people give the government to help them in times of need. It is time for the government to stop swindling its people in an effort to profit off of us.
Photo by Corey Young on Unsplash.