Idiot boxes spew what we want to hear

There’s a reason that a horse wears blinders:  So it won’t get spooked by something weird that’s outside of its vision tunnel.

The Blinder Cap embroidered with Make America Ignorant AgainAll across our country, too many people are wearing blinders on an array of issues that is unraveling the fabric of the American way of life. We are ignoring big problems, hoping they’ll just go away.  But they get worse and worse.

Instead of proactively confronting issues from race and gun violence to immigration reform and the decay of our democracy, we keep drinking from the font of ignorance.

Where is the American spirit found in the lean and hungry Greatest Generation that won World War II and capitalized on innovation to thrust our country to become the world’s superpower?  On a couch? Glued to a smartphone screen? 

It’s far past time to stop wallowing in a tribalized, uncivil America and really pull together.  Regardless of whether you’re conservative, independent or liberal, our way of life is at stake.

Just over 25 years ago, Time magazine art critic Robert Hughes wrote an incisive book that talked about America as a “collective work of the imagination whose making never ends” until it frays when mutual respect and the sense that we’re all in this together erodes.

Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America – Oxford American Lectures by Robert HughesIn Culture of Complaint, Hughes observed, “The politics of ideology has for the last twenty years weakened and in some areas broken the traditional American genius for consensus, for getting along by making up practical compromises to meet real social needs.”

Hugues described the dangers of tribalism and intolerance: “In society as in farming, monoculture works poorly.  It exhausts the soil. The social richness of America, so striking to the foreigner, comes from the diversity of its tribes.  It’s capacity for cohesion, for some spirit of common agreement on what is to be done, comes from the willingness of those tribes not to elevate their cultural differences into impassable barriers and ramparts.”

Yet in the last 25 years, Americans have retreated into algorithmic smartphones and idiot boxes that spew what they want to hear.  Look around and see how the culture of complaint described by Hughes has morphed into a culture of ignorance in which major problems are ignored as people live inside personal bubbles of intellectual comfort.  The corrosion is not hard to find:

Immigration. The picture of a drowned father and his child in the Rio Grande River propelled the country’s leaders into a new round of finger-pointing.  America is a country built by immigrants. We should be welcoming people fleeing oppression, not erecting barriers that lead to deaths and incarceration of children.  We’re better than what’s now happening. 

Climate change. You can’t “believe” or “not believe” in science because it uncovers facts and observations about what’s happening so we can engage in devising solutions.  The globe is warming. Climate change is causing a crisis now, not in the distant future. Ignoring the consequences found by science puts everyone in peril. 

Democratic institutions.  Why aren’t more Americans mad that Russia meddled in the 2016 elections?  Simply put, an enemy interfered with our democratic process and we mostly sit on our hands waiting for it to happen again.  And what of President Trump, who may have obstructed justice 11 times as outlined in The Mueller ReportHe makes light of Russia’s role in a fresh comment to his buddy, Russian President Vladimir Putin. People should be mad, not cozy.

Race.  More than 150 years after a war that split America, the country still hasn’t grappled with race in our culture and daily lives.  We’ve got to get beyond skin color and remember that everyone in America bleeds red, not white, brown, black or tan.

Gun violence. Too many people continue to be killed because of the proliferation of guns in America.  We’ve become inured to mass shootings, a sad commentary on the state of the country. Instead of continuing to dither, people need to demand action.  If lazy politicians don’t answer, vote them out.

Americans aren’t listening to each other.  If we want to thwart the continued fraying of America and subdue the ignorance that’s corroding our institutions, we’ve got to unclog our ears and work collaboratively in good faith to attack the rot.

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Editor's Note:  This story originally appeared at StateHouseReport.com.

Image Credit: The Blinder Cap embroidered with Make America Ignorant Again is a parody image created by LikeTheDew.com (we made it red and added the MAIA copy) from an image of the actual Focus Cap, which according to their site, "unlock your true cognitive potential" and "add 500% creativity" (promotional image - fair use/parody).

Andy Brack

Andy Brack

Andy Brack is a syndicated columnist in South Carolina and the publisher of Statehouse Report. Brack, who holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, also publishes a weekly newsletter about good news in the Charleston area, Charleston Currents. A former U.S. Senate press secretary, Brack has a national reputation as a communications strategist and Internet pioneer. Brack, who received a bachelor’s degree from Duke University, lives in Charleston, S.C. with his daughters, a dog and a badass cat.

Brack’s new book, “We Can Do Better, South Carolina,” is now available in paperback via Amazon.