Why Does It Take A Tragedy To Get Legislators’ Attention?

Example #1:

After seven-year-old Megan Kanka was raped and killed in 1994 by a known child molester living across the street from her, the New Jersey legislature passed Megan’s Law to warn communities about sex offenders in their midst.

This was not the first time a sexual predator harmed a child.

Example #2:

In response to last year’s mauling deaths of Dorothy Sullivan and her dog Buttons by three pit bulls running loose, Virginia state Sen. R. Edward Houck is proposing a bill that would make certain kinds of dog attacks (those that result in serious human injury or in human death), a felony, reports ABC News.

Yet this wasn’t the first injury or death caused by owners who didn’t keep track of their dogs.

Example #3:

After the deaths of 14 miners this month, West Virginia lawmakers passed a bill that requires improved communications and emergency response, electronic tracking of trapped coal miners and the underground storage of additional air supplies, reports the Herald-Dispatch.

But this comes too late for the grieving families. Said Brittany Hatfield, whose father died last week: “I just wish they would have done it before and maybe I’d have my daddy here with me.”

This wasn’t the first mining accident in the state’s history or in other parts of the country.

Why does it take a tragedy for legislators to pay attention and take action?

UPDATE: The West Virginia Legislature’s passage of a new mine-safety law encourages Pennsylvania, Ohio, Utah and Kentucky to consider changes as well (via Pittsburgh Post-Gazette).

Bloggers as Unwitting Ambassadors

The summer after I graduated from college I spent two weeks traveling through Japan. I walked through the neon streets of Tokyo and the breathtaking gardens and temples of Kyoto. What I remember most, though, is the role I played as an American ambassador.

In addition to arranging a full program of sightseeing, my host families set up several “cultural exchanges” in which they expected me to be an expert on all things American. I spoke about current events and politics to students at Reitaku University, talked with young mothers about the expanding opportunities for women in Western society, and met with a group of employees to discuss marketing.

Most of all I tried to leave a positive impression about the United States. I knew that what I said, how I said it, and my overall demeanor would have a greater impact on the people I met than some brief blurb about the U.S. they’d read in the newspaper.

That trip was many years ago. But the role I had to play is not dissimilar to the one we as bloggers and writers hold now.

Most of the blogs I read come from the U.S, but several are from Europe, Asia, Africa, and other parts of the world. I read them to gain an international perspective and to measure my opinions and responses against those of others who aren’t necessarily shaped by an American mind-set. I also know that what I write here is read by a few people in different parts of the world.

Acting as ambassadors of our respective countries is no small burden. But it offers a tremendous opportunity for us all.

Resources for Blogging in Politically Repressive Environments

Here are two important blogging resources for anyone opposed to censorship and supportive of free speech … and, most importantly, for any blogger working within a politically repressive environment.

On a related note, there is currently much talk about credibility, accountability and accuracy within the blogosphere. I’ve often thought that limiting the anonymity of bloggers or those who comment on blog posts is one way of increasing accountability. Spirit of America has challenged my view on this (see entire argument on Anonymous Blogging Apologia):

“Most of the bloggers who have been arrested in the past two years were easy to find because they followed the advice of some purist critics of anonymous blogging: They used their real names and details of their lives. Considering the likelihood that the harrassment of bloggers will continue, we believe anonymous blogging should remain a valid option and comprehensive instructions on how to do so should be available.”