Editor’s note: Jessica DeLoach Sabin is a frequent contributor to Talk Business & Politics. Opinions, commentary and other essays posted in this space are wholly the view of the author(s). They may not represent the opinion of the owners of Talk Business & Politics.
When I was in ninth grade, I was required to take one semester of government and another semester of Arkansas history. Both of those courses were incredibly underwhelming and were taught with little to no investment made by my school.
The course was outsourced to a women’s basketball coach, and even though I remember the look on his face to be that of someone who was just trying to survive the next 50 minutes of his life, I do not doubt he was well-intentioned in his effort to teach us. Rather, I don’t believe he knew how to engage us on the subject matter. Of course, it certainly did not help that the majority of the students in my class rarely displayed any interest in meeting him halfway in their learning process.
The experience I had is fairly common and I imagine many students could say the same across our nation. What keeps this memory so fresh for me, though, is not some strange and ongoing resentment toward my old school district for working to meet the academic standards that were then set forth by the state. Instead, it’s the constant reminders of just how lacking our general society is when it comes to how politics works.
Everyone is most certainly entitled to their opinion of the level by which the government should be involved in our lives. After all, it is this very question that lies at the root of so many of our most important and enduring political debates. But what is tiresome, telling, and embarrassing, even, is the ongoing barrage of flippant and incorrect political diatribes and screeds that have become a regular part of our culture.
Given the president’s recent use of executive action to create changes to the levels by which we hold our society responsible for exercising the right and privilege of owning firearms, we can be guaranteed of letters to editors and online rants about the “overuse of executive action.” Bands of constitutional scholars will emerge from the shadows to provide their take on how the president has gone too far and how his actions will not stand. It will all read as if the sky is falling and as if some government lackey is on their way to your doorstep as you read this for the purposes of collecting your guns. You’d think it would get tiresome living in such heightened circumstances. But, alas, this is just business as usual in today’s American political atmosphere.
It’s sad how basic and over-exerted political discourse has become in this nation. So often it is conducted without regard to precedent and without consideration of context. But this type of expression has become fashionable and expected – and almost a rite of passage – for those attracted to politics and who wish to play in a more public arena.
Individuals from all parties are guilty of this and what’s worse is that the likelihood of this changing is slim because reversing uninformed rhetoric is not a priority. It’s become more of a toxic fuel that could be replaced with something better, but the cost of doing so is arguably too high for those trying to get around.
Many of the problems that plague our political system can and should be attributed to the lack of investment our society makes to teach the complexities of government. Where we have failed, others have swooped in to profit and absorb power by generating anger through misinformation and rhetoric that ranges from satirical to violent. This anger has now become an industry and so many of us have been happy to perpetuate it because it has served as an outlet for the frustrations and injustices we experience in life. But how deeply do we examine our frustration and match it with facts, logic, or reason? How tightly do we hold the injustices experienced by others as an affront to the overall level of liberty and justice that should be expected by all who reside in this nation?
When we accept political discourse that surpasses the expected fundamental disagreements we have over the role of government and that drifts into complete misrepresentations of its functionality, it’s not hard to see how it has become so easy to believe America is in trouble. But this is a farce that keeps getting called into one encore performance after another. All the while, we continue proclaiming our greatness with our backs turned away from our failure to be who we say we are because we keep exploding the vehicle by which we arrive at all we could be. We keep electing people to do this.
The undercurrent of defeatism that many Americans are caught in when it comes to navigating a path toward their wishes, needs, and expectations in accordance with what the government allows is mighty and has led our nation to a dangerous and often selfish place.
I continue to reflect on the importance of education and how in this instance it means everything to us. Government is not the monster it is frequently made out to be nor is it a savior. Yet we keep throwing rocks at it based on our personal expectations and without acknowledgement of knowing what we don’t know and as if our concerns are the same or are entirely relevant to the estimated 318 million other people who live in the United States.
If we do not reconsider the importance of the level to which we educate our society about how it is governed, then the world we live in will make the frustrations we are experiencing now look like better days. Knowledge, especially in this case, is access to tremendous power, and it is also reason to hope that we may all become better equipped to refrain from placing our circumstances onto others and better able to seek multiple sides to every story. From here we will all be able to more easily agree on the basic principles by which our society can be more functional and fair.
To not do this is to stunt the growth of an incredibly young and increasingly diverse nation. This ongoing partisan retreat inward will be to our detriment, so why not avoid this by learning to look outward?