The Distraction of Shiny Objects
While my son was a student at the University of Alabama, and a few years before I became politically aware and active, I met a man who mentored a group of young men at the University, including my son.
This gentleman was a student of history, a UA graduate, and loved the University dearly. But he was increasingly critical of what he was watching unfold in Tuscaloosa as well as on other campuses across the country. He referred to the “Saturday circus” and the gathering of the masses to watch the young football “gladiators” entertain the “modern-day Romans.”
I love college football and look forward to every season but for some reason, his comments stuck in my head and have come back numerous times over the past few years. With the explosion of “social” media and the intensity of rivalries that frequently borders on insanity, I now realize that it’s just one the “shiny objects” that keep us distracted from the serious issues facing our nation.
Politicians and the mainstream media love shiny objects; they are excellent tools to keep us from paying attention.
In the midst of the New Year celebrations and college football bowl games when few were paying attention, several news outlets shared the results of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) annual list of new state laws for 2014. As a result of the legislative sessions in all 50 states, including the commonwealths and territories, nearly 40, 000 bills and resolutions were passed that will go into effect at some point in 2014.
Given that our own state legislature introduced over 1,800 bills* in the last regular session, it isn’t hard to believe that all levels of government throughout our country, whether led by Republicans or Democrats, are intent on expanding the role of government rather than limiting it, and in turn limiting our choices and freedom. And as voters continue to re-elect those who are responsible for this insatiable desire for more legislation and government, I am disturbed about what that says about our electorate.
Have we truly reached a point in the nanny state that we believe more government, more laws, and more regulation is the only solution to problems? Or is it more a case of bigger government by default because we aren’t paying attention to just how much legislation is being passed?
As of article deadline, Alabama legislators have pre-filed 99 bills in the House chamber and 66 in the Senate* with a week remaining before the 2014 Regular Session convenes. It has already been reported that this will likely be a short session due to the upcoming June primary so, hopefully, we may not see the same volume of legislation as in past sessions. But a more accelerated calendar will also mean that legislation may be passed quickly without a lot of time for citizen in-depth analysis.
Whether it is football, the birth of a British prince, or the Miley Cyrus twerking brouhaha, there is never a loss of entertainment or shiny object material to divert Americans from the activities of the political ruling class.
And while the Duck Dynasty firestorm was one distraction that generated hot debate regarding religious expression, I only hope that those who so ardently supported the Robertson family will recognize that their voices are not only highly effective in corporate boardrooms but also in the political arena. The legislative process requires a bit of time on our part for education and I understand that a lot of people don’t have the inclination to learn. But for those who think they don’t want to be bothered with activities at the State House or within the D.C. Beltway, rest assured that whether you like it or not, politics enormously impacts your life.
By no means do I suggest that we abandon the entertainment of college football, but I have to wonder what could be accomplished as far as holding government and our elected officials accountable if we had the same passion for educating ourselves about the issues facing our country as we do about football rankings or the recruiting of the “gladiators.” For 2014, I hope we can minimize our obsession with the shiny objects.
*Information obtained via http://www.openbama.org
Marcia Chambliss is the Alabama State Coordinator of Smart Girl Politics, a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to the education and training of activists and candidates, and Smart Girl Politics Action, http://sgpaction.com/, a 501(c)(4) which focuses on conservative issues. She can be reached at Marcia@sgpaction.com. Her views do not necessarily reflect the opinions of
Smart Girl Politics Action.