(image from theatlantic.com)
A few days ago my husband and I went on a long car trip, and, as is wont, we listened to some loud ‘crashy-bangy’ music to keep us awake on the late drive home. I think the music we chose was prophetic for its day.
In the past few days not only have I been disappointed by my country, but also in an organization that I have given time and effort to for the last 21 years. On a smaller scale, this organization shows me how broken political systems can be on all levels.
I have been everything from mildly to extremely disappointed in America’s political system. The polarization between camps has grown to huge chasms that seem unfillable. Last night, though the president made some interesting proposals, he did not really tell me anything new. But then again, I pay attention to news and commentary. I have the time and the understanding to parse political talk and see behind the promises. Although not all promises are lies, they come really close.
Most Americans do not have the savvy to parse political talk. Many can barely look beyond getting through a single day. More get their politics from one source and stick to that, and make choices at the polls based on one source’s information. Some simply go to the polls and pull levers at random. Others look for charisma in a candidate and vote that way.
Too many people have little understanding of how politics really works. And it seems that those in power like it that way. After all, they refuse to step out of office. Power does corrupt. So does money. And the two go together.
This is not to say that any other political system is any better. Far from it. Parliamentary systems don’t work either, and totalitarian governments are only as good as their strongman/woman. Politics is humanity’s dirty shame. Couple it with money, religion or other ideologies and you have recipes for disasters.
How can we start to change things? Start at the most common level. Understanding. Bring civics back into more American schools. Teach children about civics, about voting, about community participation and issues. Let students learn about government beyond the basic set up. Have discussions in classes about issues.
And what about changing a person’s focus? There is something called a Hierarchy of Needs that one learns about when one studies communications. Many Americans live at the lowest levels – few get beyond even the very lowest. How can someone think beyond themselves if they aren’t home, food or job secure?
The president and his opposites have spoken, but little was really said. And littler will be done over the coming year. And I will continue to feel dejected. Change has not come. In the past decade and a half we’ve gone back to a time when the few controlled money and politics, while most Americans are left out of the political process.
Politics? I would rather make sure I have a roof over my head, food on my table and no creditors at my door. I would rather have friends I can turn to than a representative who doesn’t know me from anyone else.
In short, I would rather not have all the headaches that come with understanding how politics work. But since I do understand, I will take the headaches. And another cup of coffee.