Wednesday, July 29, 2015

On the Effectiveness of Petitions

I was tweeted a very good question recently by a Cobain case supporter bearing on the impact of petitions upon the Seattle Police Department. This individual expressed the concern that the Department would not take petitions seriously and that it seemed futile therefore to submit them.

First off, this is a valid concern and I'm glad the question was asked: for twenty-one years, despite a wealth of evidence indicating a reopening of the case is required, Cobain case supporters have been met with silence and derision. This, naturally, is quite frustrating – indeed, maddening at times – and it therefore is easy to conclude that it is pointless for anyone to engage in the petition process.

My belief, however, is that petitions are important and do make a difference: they make a difference by ensuring that authorities are aware that support for a reopening of the case is alive and well and that an ever-present and growing contingent of supporters is committed to accountability; they also help in an educational and recruiting capacity, by creating additional public awareness of events bearing on Kurt's death and thereby helping to inspire others to join the cause; further, petitions are essentially permanent records which can be pointed to or cited as evidence of the public's consistent support to reopen the case; in addition, petitions help in a cumulative sense because, taken in conjunction with other efforts and strategies to reopen the case, they are a form of added pressure – and if enough of these individual components of pressure sufficiently come together then – finally – the dam will in fact give way.

There are other reasons as well as to why the petition process is valuable: anytime essentially that we are able to exercise our individual voices and free speech rights this is extremely positive – not only because it's your right and is individually empowering, but also because, as briefly noted above, it can help influence others to speak out as well.

As a general matter, one way control and power is maintained is by fostering an environment where those with legitimate grievances and concerns are left feeling disillusioned and passive. It's critical in this regard, in our endeavor to achieve a reopening of the case, that we keep speaking the truth as we have been, and asserting ourselves in those ways that make the most sense to us individually – whether by the petition process or other means of advocacy.

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