Illustration by Kerry P. Talbott
In 2011, the White House established a website called "We the People," which allows citizens to formally petition the federal government to take action on a wide-ranging set of issues. Once 100,000 signatures are collected online, The White House is obligated to respond. The signature requirement was recently raised from 25,000 because it seems you can easily convince thousands of idiots to sign any petition — secession from the U.S.; state designations of Pokemon, like state birds or trees; declaring the Monday after the Super Bowl a national holiday; the construction and implementation of a Death Star.
But the higher hurdle didn't stop the people of the Old Dominion from collecting 100,000 signatures for its own petition, more than half of which came from relatives of Richmond Sheriff C.T. Woody.
The petition reads as follows: "Embarrassed for years on a national scale by the shenanigans of our elected officials in the General Assembly, the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia hereby petition the White House to remove every man, woman, Republican and Democrat from office and replace them with a delegation of robots."
Here is the official White House response:
"It is understandable that the good people of Virginia desire a legislative body that can execute its business in a timely manner, in a spirit of cooperation for the betterment of the commonwealth. Furthermore, the people would best be served by individuals who are not motivated solely by a desire to be re-elected. Thirdly, in an atmosphere where logic seems to have left the building, it does seem an attractive solution to ensure that lawmakers are basing decisions on hard facts and not the donations of lobbyists, lust for power, the desire to keep their jobs or the whispers of the Almighty into their ears.
"We understand how weary you must be of the goings-on at your Capitol. Is it possible to take Del. Joe Morrissey seriously about stiffer gun laws when he is brandishing an AK-47 on the floor of the House? Isn't it bad enough he is allowed through security every day with his own fists?
"And most recently, your evenly split Senate held a surprise vote while Democratic Sen. Henry Marsh was attending President Obama's inauguration to redraw their districts to ensure one new African-American majority district while potentially transforming the 20-20 Senate into a solid Republican majority. You have to hand it to them. That was one of the sneakiest maneuvers since J.R. Ewing secretly mortgaged Southfork.
"We can see why robots seem like a good choice.
"Unfortunately, the White House must deny your request. Currently you have 40 senators and 100 delegates whose collective salaries total roughly $2.5 million. The cost of building even a single humanoid biped equipped with decision-making artificial intelligence, autonomous behavior, self-driven movement and high-level postural balancing capability (for handling those tricky steps in both chambers) is roughly $266,000. Replacing the humans would total more than $37 million. Even if the citizens feel it is money well spent, the robots would likely do the most logical thing to balance that expenditure: cut school budgets and raise taxes. Surely, you don't want that.
"There may be another factor the citizens of Virginia have not considered in filing this petition. Robots may make the best decisions based on efficiency, productivity and cold, hard facts, but that is not always what is best for the people. Rather than look to a legislative body capable of no human values, you should be looking for representatives with deeper values, greater ideals, higher standards — in essence, more humanity than your current General Assembly.
"Have you considered vampires?"