By Benjamin P. Bowser
While I was watching one of the Republican debates, Little Dud (a fictional friend) stopped by and said: “Well, who really cares? Obama turned out to be just another politician. Once politicians get into office, they forget what they promised and cannot be trusted. Since nothing I can do will make a difference, it is a waste of time to pay attention to anything political. Better to focus on my personal life, weather or sports. Who’s going to the play-offs?”
I must confess Little Dud has some points. Many people would rather talk about intimate details of their personal life – sex, embarrassments and stupid stuff – than to talk about politics. But I had to respond that the political is something none of us can really afford to ignore. In the spirit of JustThink, I want to give Little Dud reason to “flip the script” – become knowledgeable about the political in a way that we are not supposed to and then to act in a way that is unexpected.
So, if this is how you feel, then the people who wanted this outcome have succeeded. Why? You will make no demands on them or political process to make changes to improve your life. Your needs and interests can be completely ignored. Their interests which may be counter to yours can be advanced and their votes will count more than yours and others like you. In fact, they can claim that they represent the majority, reflect the democratic will of the people, and advance their own interests as what is best for you and Little Dud. They can make money and be happy at his and your expense, in your name and without your even knowing. This is their script.
To flip this script you have to actively and knowledgeably be engaged in what is going on politically. If you rely completely on commercial television news like ABC, CNN or Fox, you are being set up to not count. You need at least two comprehensive sources of world and national news such as:
- Al Jazeera English, which is not allowed on U.S. networks.
- The New York Times, the only comprehensive newspaper left in the U.S.
I am not talking about conspiracies. Efforts to discourage your thinking are right out in plain sight. There are good paying job for people to shape your views of the political. When political parties and candidates hire public relation firms, advertising companies, media consultants and campaign staffs they do so to influence your thinking – if these efforts did not work they would not spend millions to do them. Politicians like advertisers want you to believe their message, but if you cannot or will not, then they want to discourage your participation altogether. If you are not going to be “had,” you got to be on your toes.
If you have been watching the Republican Party’s nomination process, what looks on the surface like a food fight is far from it. Their beliefs, vision and assumptions about the world are getting almost a full year of media coverage without opposing views. During this time, one would think there is only one political party; they get to define the issues, to demonize Democrats and President Obama and make it seem that their victory is inevitable. This is all very strategic and well done because if the election was tomorrow, Obama and Democratic Party would lose. They have lots of catching up to do.
For us all to flip the script, we have to ask the question of what does promoting the “common good” mean. This is for you and your friends to answer; this is ultimately what the political is all about. It is not for either party to give you the answer, manipulate you into believing their view or to turn you off from the process if they cannot get your support. Once you have your grounding, then you will clearly see what the candidates really have to offer. No one will be perfect or ideal. Until people and a party come forward that better represent you, you are going to have to select who comes closest to your ideal.
To be had and to stay on the side-lines will only contribute to making our day-to-day lives more difficult than they are now – a lot more difficult. This is why we should care about politics, and surprise those who think you will not count because you are so alienated by it all – flip the script. Even the Little Dud is convinced. Our choices are far from ideal, but we do have a real obligation to ourselves and those coming behind us to be engaged and to show up and be counted.