Politics as a spectator sport?
There seem to be many Americans who view politics as a spectator sport.
If you are sitting in the bleachers and your team wins, do you feel like a winner? You can drive home smiling and honking your horn. But if your team loses, then, oh wow. Are you a loser? I personally don’t think so, but then again I’m not really into spectator sports. And when I do watch them, the team I’m cheering for certainly doesn’t define me.
A part of me wishes that I could get more into sports. I once said that my favorite spectator sport is watching my very passionate mother enjoy a football game. It’s a wonderful thing to behold, really, the way she puts herself into it and has so much fun. But when it comes to politics, the “them vs. us” dynamics of a football game doesn’t serve the greater “we” that is our country. That’s particularly true with a subject such as healthcare reform, in which cooperation and a lack of game-playing can save lives. With so much suffering going on, there’s no time for a football game mentality.
Given the current climate in which quite a number of Republicans seem hungry for a “fumble” by our newly elected president, I have a hunch that many Americans do view politics as a spectator sport. Afterall, where was this righteous gnashing of teeth when the mess that is our economy was being created? The sudden “rage of the right” doesn’t add up unless there’s a serious case of sore loser syndrome going on.
Okay, so maybe the team you voted for, the one that makes you feel okay about yourself, didn’t win this one. The “sports” commentary is so telling. “Cheater! No fair! I’ll get you next time! We’ll crush you next time! You lied! You didn’t play fair! You’re not in this game long, Pal!”
In other words, if you’re against the current President of the United States, and his team is in control, you might be pulling your hair out, getting red in the face and feeling like the world is going to end. Your only relief will be a mistake by the other side, or at least something you can try to spin as a mistake.
In the case of America losing its recent bid to host the Olympics, the odd celebrating by many Republicans could seem completely anti-American until you look at it through the eyes of a football fan. The “other side” fumbled, according to them. That’s what it would be like if your self-esteem is based on the win/loss scenario that ends every football game.
Let’s say that half-way into his term, President Obama and his team manage to turn the tide on our greed-sick economy. The crisis that took years to create starts to ease because of his leadership. And let’s say that his leadership leads to some kind of healthcare reform that helps those struggling Americans who are now going bankrupt to pay medical bills. Maybe it won’t be a perfect system, but we’ll look back and wonder how we could have ever let things get so bad before.
That’s a win for all of us, right? I mean, you would think the answer would be “yes!”
I have a hunch that it won’t be for the side that is now displaying sore loser syndrome. I think it will actually hurt, at least on the level of ego. And that’s what this is all about. Ego. Because it will mean that their own team didn’t score a big whopping political touchdown.
I didn’t care for George W. Bush one bit and suffered for eight years while he was president. I was scared to death about the trends that were leading to the present economic crisis and I was mad at him for letting them happen on his watch. But I also respected the American system and the ultimate wisdom of the voters to correct mistakes. If you are waiting for the pendulum to swing the other way again, then at least be grown up about it. After all, you had your turn. And it was a long one.
And to those who can’t blog and yell and complain enough about our current president I would ask, “Where were you?”
Where were you during the years that this mess was being created? I hear your voice now, screaming that President Obama isn’t working fast enough to fix the problem. But were you using your voice when President Bush was in office? Were you blogging then about how things as we know it were coming to an end? Because they were.
Or maybe you just flipped the station with your remote because you thought your team already had won the game.
Note: Cathleen Hulbert posted this story first on her blog on open.salon.com.