I saw a quote that seems to sum up where we are headed as a nation if we are not already there.
“People have moved beyond apathy, beyond skepticism into deep cynicism.” – Elliot Richardson
Much of my early life and some of the middle of it was lived in years of apathy in America, punctuated by periods of “woke” unrest caused by resistance to the Viet Nam War and in rise of the Civil Rights Movement. More recent awareness of issues and wrongs, such as the “Me, too” movement, the “Black Lives Matter” movement and the issue of LBGTQ rights has pulled the scabs off things in our society that we cannot and should not allow apathy to gloss over. The power of social media and modern communications channels have quickly moved us passed the phase of skepticism and towards cynicism.
That movement has been exacerbated by the wide political divide that has developed in our nation. We no longer enjoy the stability of an intelligent and thinking moderate political majority in our government. The old bell-shaped curve in which the majority of our politicians were in the middle on issues, with outliers at the extremes on both sides has been replaced by an inverted bell-shaped curve where the majority of politicians have aligned themselves with the extreme positions and only a few, moderate voices remain to try to find compromises.
As we approach yet another election season and the attack ads start to pop up on TV and social media, I can’t help but ask myself, “Is these really the best people that we have to offer?” Are these politicians from the extreme on either side really our brightest and best; or are they just the only ones willing to put up with life in the gutter that politics has become? As a nation are we ready to follow these sleazy politicians in their crusade AGAINST others and various causes; or would we rather follow true leaders towards higher, positive goals for America? Do we vote for the guy (or gal) who can yell, “The other guy is a bum” the loudest or do we look at what they really stand for and vote for people with a vision of what good can yet be done in America?
We cannot afford to be apathetic, but we need not become cynics. We need to look with skepticism at the messages being aimed at us on social media and in the news. We need to look at what the current elected people have actually done while in office, verses what they initially promised to do (it is seldom the same). And we may need to compromise a bit ourselves, putting some of our own priorities or issues aside for the moment to vote for the best people for the jobs.
So, let us not become cynics; but, rather let us become better informed and more thoughtful voters this year. One cannot just sit on the couch watching the nightly news and saying, “What an idiot” when current elected officials pass yet another dumb or vindictive law. It is our task as good citizens not to let the voices of reason and moderation get drowned out by the yelling and misinformation from the extremes on either side. It is no small task to search for the best people amidst the noise of the calliope that modern politics has become, but they and the truth are out there. We see signs on beer and liquor trucks saying, “Drink responsibly”; maybe we need signs on polling places saying “Vote responsibly.”
I’ll see you at the polls.