American Democracy at Work
by Gilles d'Aymery

June 20, 1999

A month or so ago I gave a hard time to a good old friend, Mac Lawrence. Now, let me first qualify the adjectives I just used, "good" and "old." Mac is a "good" friend in the sense that he's earned my respect. He is an "old" friend because he is in his seventies. Nowadays, we all expect to be 100 years old and thriving, especially in America; so, I guess I could say that Mac is a young friend. I got acquainted with him about seven years ago and I really met him about a month or so ago. So, this is a young friendship between an old man who wishes he will never die and a middle-aged man who will eventually wish he never dies. Don't fall asleep yet.

So, I was giving good old Mac a hard time for he would leave his dilettante job at the office as a retiree volunteer, to go wind-surfing on the magnificent San Francisco Bay. I was pushing him to write to his U.S. representatives in the Congress and the Senate and object about the war against Serbia.

Now, as he was not much responsive, I threw at him a cheap shot. I said, "Go ahead, enjoy your wind-surfing!" And I dropped him dead in his own water. Mac did not react on the spot. His face kept with his usual smiling expression; and I left with more even frustrations that the "old" man would not even react to my personal attack.

However, a couple of hours later, as I was walking by him on my way to another computer crash (remember, I make a living -- that is $ sign -- supporting communication systems), Mac softly said that I had been unfair to him. In a word or two, he explained that he had been an activist for his entire long life and had learned to his dismay that it made little sense, but for self-satisfaction, to write to one's own representative. "They ignore you, he said, and the best you can expect is a form letter that does not even address your concerns."

Now, at the risk of appearing naïve at best, and even after 16 years in this alien country, the U.S.A. (The "U" should have long been removed from the appellation), I always thought that one could address one's representative and one would get a genuine answer, no questions asked. And here is a pure-bred American who explains to me that I need to wake up to the world.

Mind-boggling, indeed. Should I trust the "good old" friend? I'll let you judge.

Here below is an E-mail exchange between Jan Baughman and her California senator, Barbara Boxer:

Subject: Stop the Bombing of Serbia

Dear Senator Boxer,

I am writing to implore you to fight to end the bombing of Serbia. It is outrageous that we can kill civilians (and write it off as "mistakes"), destroy an entire country, be responsible ourselves for the creation of hundreds of thousands of refugees, all in the name of humanity. And yet we turn our head to the true humanitarian crises -- just look throughout Africa.

Please, do something to stop it.


Jan Baughman
545 Palmer Lane
Menlo Park, CA 94025

Senator Barbara Boxer answers:

Dear Friend:

Thank you for contacting me with your views on military intervention in Kosovo. I appreciate hearing from you.

As you know, on Wednesday, March 24, the United States Armed Forces joined other NATO member-nations in launching air strikes against the Serbian forces responsible for the brutal attacks on the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

The international community must not sit by and allow Slobodan Milosovic to carry out his brutal plan of ethnic cleansing. Instead, we must halt the Serbian army's attacks against innocent Kosovar civilians--a largely defenseless people who are being killed not for what they have done, but for who they are: ethnic Albanians.

Please know that I understand the legitimate concerns about NATO intervention in Kosovo. To this end, I remain committed to a diplomatic solution to this issue. Such a solution should include the following conditions:

* A verifiable cessation of all combat activities and killings;