Voting, Politics and TV: Dumbing Down America
On September 15 of this year, participants in the 1,000 mile Journey for Justice arrived in Washington, DC petitioning Congress to restore the potency of The Voting Rights Act, created by Lynden B. Johnson. I grew up in the North, and the right to vote was not an issue in our Black family. But I recall the struggles, marches, sacrifices, and lives lost in the South; all for the right to vote. Once a privilege, voting became a duty, a sacrament even. And to what end?
Today’s political arena has made a mockery of an institution at the heart of the democratic process. At times, the spectacles to which we are subjected can be likened unto a reality show. It’s playing to the least common denominator in the dumbing down of America.
What place do schoolyard name calling and character assassination play in the selection of the person designated to be the leader of both the United States and the Western world? What happened to civilized debate? What happened to addressing the issues that are germane to the wellbeing of the citizenry, and to the planet at large? What happened to statesmanship and the philosophy of to whom much is given, much is expected? Don’t get me wrong. The players of the past were not all saints, but despite what you might think of their positions, they took the process seriously.
Too much of what we are seeing today can be attributed to the dumbing down of television journalism. I mourn the days of Walter Cronkite, when the news focused on real issues and objective fact. It was designed to offer information with which to make an informed decision. As a child, I found the news to be boring. Boring was good – it meant that it dealt with grownup things beyond my reach as a little kid. Entertainment was not the main focus, and Nielsen ratings were not the primary motivator.
I remember the format used to run for class president in the sixth grade:
- Write a platform statement and distribute it to the kids: the electorate.
- Hold a well moderated, strictly focused debate.
- Let the voters choose.
- And oh yes, the campaign budget was very limited.
How about following that simple format at the national level? Then the millions spent on frivolous campaigning could be redirected to raise up the tired, poor, huddled masses that still exist in our country.
I wish success to the marchers of Journey for Justice. And while they’re in the process of protecting this precious right to vote, please give us something worth voting for.
Author of You CAN Go Home Again
Amy, I finally just read your blog. You are alluding in your typical classy way, w/o mentioning names, to some politicians’ disgraceful “performances”. The sixth grade model is a fine one!
I ask myself again and again: how can so many Americans in this pre-election YEAR+ fall for or agree with some totally unacceptable demeanor. Can’t call it juvenile because your 6th graders did much better than that.
Thank you, Gisela, for your detailed analysis of this piece.
You are right, Norma Jean. We must guard the children and what we teach them.
Yes, please let us know what you stand for, Please be kind and respectful. Our children are watching. They do not need to see bullies.