Another post on agency.
In the world of the student writer, people have curiously little power. Frequently, in fact, they seem to be standing in the way of abstractions that are struggling to achieve something.
Considering the current Congress, I’m tempted to agree with this student: there are laws the passage of which is being actively impeded by people who have decided to block them. Many of these hopeful laws have the support of a substantial majority of the American people, so in this sense they are trying to be passed. But grammatically and logically, no, laws can make no effort of their own.
My student has more than this in mind, too:
There are many laws that are trying to be passed that go on behind the scenes that people are not aware of.”
Do the laws go on behind the scenes, busily looking, perhaps, for a chink in the Congressional defensive line through which they can be passed? The first “that” seems to be referring to the laws.
The second “that” evidently refers to “scenes”: people are not aware of these scenes. Scenes where? The scenes of the defensive line? People are not aware of these scenes, but the struggling laws going on are?
I think my student meant that in committees and in congressional offices, unnoticed by CNN’s eye on the congressional floor and by other reporters, legislators are drafting laws; and that is true.
It’s not nearly as entertaining, though, as the picture of those laws—a whole multitude of them—busily but fruitlessly looking for a chink in the stonewall (sorry for the new metaphor!) between themselves and victorious passage out there in the light of day.
I hope they keep trying. Well, at least I hope the ones that have broad public support keep trying. If at first you don’t succeed….