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Americans have become very adept at ignoring problems, particularly when it comes to politics. Lately, the excuse du jour is the unending partisan spats that must be addressed by the denizens of the opposing political positions – blue versus red. But, if they would take a step back, set aside the partisanship for just a moment, there’s a chance that they might recognize the following three problems that are plaguing both sides of the aisle.

1. Lowering the bar doesn’t lead to greatness – Whether you’re talking about lowering standards to allow for “equality” or turning a blind eye on bad behavior, letting things slide because it makes you feel better doesn’t help anyone. Both sides of the aisle are guilty of this, so no finger-pointing allowed. It is wrong to suggest that schools or the military or anything else should reduce their standards to let in people who simply don’t have the ability to do what is required. On the other hand, it’s also wrong to keep electing people whose behavior is worse than our own.

We keep thinking that we’re helping “marginalized groups” when we give them a pass to get into programs or careers that they really aren’t equipped to do. How helpful is it to reduce standards and end up with less competent people in those positions? The hard truth is that not everyone is meant to be exactly what they want in society, and the best we can do is to prevent government from getting in the way of people doing the best that they can. That doesn’t mean make it easier to do anything – it just means remove unnecessary hurdles and road blocks.

As for our slippery slope with politicians, that has been happening since the beginning of our nation, not just during the past few decades. However, once we started talking about wanting a president who we could picture ourselves sharing a beer with on the porch, our standards did start dropping severely. Before anyone gets offended or starts saying that the president deserves respect, think about the characteristics of the current one. If your next door neighbor had a history of cheating on his wife, would you assume that he quit just because he hadn’t been caught recently? How long would a dinner guest last at your table if he monopolized the table discussion with talk about how he is an expert at everything? Finally, if you wouldn’t put up with that kind of behavior from someone you interact with as a friend, why would you defend it when you see it done by the president? If that is what “respecting the president” really has become, the bar is extremely low.

2. Minors and media aren’t good policy-makers – After the shooting in Parkland, the children have taken to the streets to demand changes in policy, and the media has been feeding their fervor. Unfortunately, too many people who should be acting as the adults in the room have been swept up by this. Particularly in this case, it is a terrible idea.

Any reliable source on dealing with loss and grief – from pamphlets to psychological professionals – will tell people that it is a terrible idea to make any major life decisions immediately after a loved one has died. This is why people are constantly encouraged to make wills, living wills, pre-plan funerals, etc. In all of those plans, people are always told to name responsible adults to carry out their wishes – not children.

If we can understand why children shouldn’t be involved in carrying out anything important in our personal lives when someone dies, why are we thinking that they should be highly involved in major decisions for our nation when they are dealing with losses themselves? The media is telling us that we should listen to them, because it fits their agenda. Depending on how cynical someone is, that agenda either just involves making money or goes far deeper. Either way, the public isn’t turning off the television, and they are showing up in droves at these protests that are driven by uncontrolled emotion. Following that to the logical conclusion, does that mean that we have reached the point where we think it’s a great idea to make governmental policies and laws based solely on uncontrolled emotions? Let’s hope not.

3. Apathy – It would be nice to be able to point back at a specific time in our history as a nation and say “that was when our populace as a whole really did care.” Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. Early on, it is true that just about everyone who was granted the right to vote actually did cast a ballot regularly. During those times, there were many people excluded, notably blacks and women. Now, nowhere near the number of people who are eligible to vote actually register and vote. It’s true that the children who want to run our government lately are trying to get more people registered to vote, but even that effort won’t make a real dent in the number of people who simply choose not to involve themselves in their own governance.

True, in the worst cases those same people who don’t vote will be the first to complain, but it never seems to occur to them that they should make use of their right to vote. It’s taken for granted. People from other nations around the world look at us and cannot understand why so many of our citizens simply don’t vote.

Of course, the radicals on either side of the aisle are probably hoping that those masses don’t step up. Why? Because they know that the apathetic people are mostly sitting in the middle. There are some radicals among them, but most of them are just sitting in the middle. Maybe those vocal radicals wouldn’t have so much power if the apathetic moderates started caring – and voting.

Image: Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

Liz Harrison

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