The Trial of Aaron Swartz 2020

                You Decide 

About the Playwright  

Personal Statement 

Shimon Waldfogel

This is Shimon’s first effort at playwriting or any connection to the theater arts.


Shimon’s current interests are focused on improving the state of Democracy by building on an understanding of the structures and information flow in complex adaptive systems. Influenced by the work of David Easton, Shimon is exploring the use of biologic systems approach to cancer to describe and target “treatments” for “pathology” in the US political system. (The James Madison Project)


In particular, he is exploring ways to reframe the role of the “citizen” as an actor within the civic/political ecosystem and to better understand the behavioral factors affecting individuals in interaction in the political arena (political behavioral economics).  His “civic” involvement seeks to leverage governmental initiatives in the area of “smart disclosure” of public data and utilize digital technology for development of citizen engagement tools (such as  “choice engines”, crowdsourcing, social networking) to address challenges in our politics in general and in the US healthcare system in particular. 


The effort to write The Trial of Aaron Swartz 2020: You Decide is motivated by the desire to create deliberative discussion and dialogue that addresses the following:

the meaning of citizenship in a digital age;

the relationship between citizens and Government officials;

the impact of the digital revolution on American Life.


The Trial of Aaron Swartz 2016: You Decide provides a framework for the intergeneration conversation of the impact of the digital revolution on American Life. Most powerfully, Shimon is inspired in his efforts to create the play by the memory of his mother, Pearl, who at age 18 had been imprisoned for years in pre-WWII Poland accused of possessing political pamphlets.


Shimon was a founding member of Kibbutz Gezer in Israel, where he worked as a welder and was responsible for the irrigation branch.


Shimon lives and works in the Philadelphia area, and is greatly influenced by the historic connection to the establishment of American Democracy.  He is a board-certified psychiatrist who is an assistant professor at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, Pa. He is an attending psychiatrist at Abington Memorial Hospital in Abington PA. Shimon received his medical training at Ben-Gurion University in Israel and his residency training in psychiatry at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. Shimon was instrumental in the development of courses about the role of religion and spirituality in medical and psychological practice. He was a founder of the Jefferson-Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine.


The opinions and activities associated with Citizens4Health, The James Madison Project, The Trial of Aaron Swartz 2020, and, are Dr. Waldfogel's alone and do not reflect those of his current, previous employers or any other entity.




I am a United States citizen. I take that role quite seriously. The past few years — with the financial meltdown, the polarized political debate over health care, concerns about inequality, corruption the financial future of the country, and increasing polarization  — have made me realize that voting in elections is not enough. Now more than ever, I realize that citizenship requires more active engagement in the political process. As an engaged citizen and psychiatrist, I hope to contribute a unique voice to the current political conversation. I started Citizens4health  to provide a vehicle for my civic engagement and to reach out to others who share my belief that motivated citizens can have an impact on our political system.


For too long I have felt marginalized and disengaged from politics as the dialogue has become more and more partisan, answering to the demands of extreme constituencies on the left and right. Citizenship requires a basic understanding of the complex issues that face our nation,  and we must hold our political representative accountable for solving them. Yes, ideology plays a role in framing the challenges and provides the tension needed for active political dialogue of differing opinions. It is when ideology becomes rigid that the conversation turns disrespectful and misleading. That puts our very foundations as a democracy in danger.


But my passions and experience go beyond ideologies. In other roles as a healthcare provider, a consumer of healthcare services, and a patient, I have had a particular interest in the healthcare debate that led to the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). I followed the debate closely in the print media, watched hearings and news conferences on C-SPAN and various news shows, participated in town hall meetings, and discussed developments with fellow healthcare providers and citizens. What I came to realize was quite distressing: Rather than being based on facts, the debate was driven by opinions and lies crafted by highly paid experts to assure the continuation of the status quo. Rather than achieving solutions, the healthcare debate, leading to the ACA and the subsequent political fallout, has poisoned our political environment. Instead of contributing solutions to a major problem, it has further entrenched the political gridlock and made solutions to an urgent problem that much more elusive.


More than anything, the most discouraging aspect of the current political environment is what it says about how our political representatives view us, their fellow citizens. I felt that these politicians’ actions and speeches were quite demeaning, tapping into our pessimism rather than our optimism.


Many share my concerns about the current state of the political environment and feel as I do that we need to tap into the American optimism, not pessimism, I invite you to join me and my fellow citizens as we engage in a deliberative process that will achieve lasting solutions that work for us.



Shimon Waldfogel