Funnyman Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show," had a hilarious political parody that left me in stitches while simultaneously setting off alarm bells. Sounds a tad like an oxymoron right? The best fake news show in town never fails to entertain, but it also informs and gets us thinking. Well, those of us who love the guy think he is one of the smartest comics around. In fact many Americans claim to tune in to get the truth they say they cannot get from the mainstream media—which is incredibly ironic and not a positive reflection on the real news programs.
The skit featured John Oliver, one of the “news correspondents” frantically looking for political props to use at the Democratic National Convention. The props were people and thus about 10 minutes of hilarity ensued.
While laughing loudly, I thought how our political system was very much like Stewart’s pretend world and we are all indeed “props” in this whole political scheme of things.
Just as Oliver searched far and wide for folks to help push the partisan pandering over substantive message, we the people are prodded through non-stop attack ads and giant offensive billboards that tell half-truths and sometimes outright lies. Bloggers, pundits and radio talking heads distort, exaggerate, vilify and ostracize to the point of creating more division than unity.
Presidential campaigns are conducted like open warfare and each side wants to win the ultimate prize—your vote. To do that, they feel they have to obliterate the opposition by any means necessary—except of course, debating the issues that concern you. Oh no, the spin is much more impressive and thus gets more media coverage. Discussing issues like unemployment, with specific proposals planned to tackle the problem is not sensational enough so the conversation strays to a few talking points.
Meanwhile, excessive amounts of money keeps pouring into campaigns, with $50,000-a-plate dinners at swanky fundraisers where celebrities pony up the "doh" for one side and billionaires write $10 million checks for the other. Why does picking a president cost so much? Maybe it’s because democracy is no longer for the people, by the people, of the people? Now it is for those who can afford the ultra-expensive price tag.
It is a price tag that comes with all sorts of attachments, none benefiting those who couldn’t afford to pay big. Those who can’t afford to throw loads of cash at their candidate get to be the “props.” The million-dollar ads are designed to entice you; sway you; bamboozle you. You see, they don’t believe the props can do much thinking for themselves---why else would they spend close to a billion on you? We know it’s not because they care about country or you and your family’s future for if they did, they would have worked on sound solutions instead of the partisan, ineffective politics that are par for the course in Washington.
Ah, Washington. Where the “do-nothing” Congress has the lowest approval rating in decades. Where party power supersedes people power and winning at all cost is the name of the game. So if stonewalling, blocking, voting nay, doing one thing while their side of the aisle is at the helm and then hypocritically condemning the same polices when they’re not holding the reins—if all these things get our representatives and senators partisan political capital, then it's country be damned.
Climate change, global warming, alternative sources of energy, energy independence, education, purging corruption in Washington, revamping our political system, overhauling campaign polices, improving our economy, reining in corporate greed, fixing our broken unfair tax code, becoming an educated, innovative, healthy country prepared to compete globally in the 21st century— all are topics that are too weighty for the campaign trail.
Some of our leaders are so busy marginalizing women and the poor that they are not seeing the bigger picture. They are so myopic, locked into a bygone era, that they are missing a crucial opportunity to use all of our citizens to forge ahead. So while the rest of the world advances, we wallow in the minutiae and encourage bigotry, racism, bias, prejudice, fear, divisiveness.
Writer Alvin Toffler once wrote this brilliant quote: ”The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”
Let’s play a little Q & A: Is the U.S. doing an effective job of learning, unlearning and relearning to adapt and thrive in a changing world?
Written by Veronica Roberts
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