Today’s Courier Herald Column:
Those who read the daily version of this column may note that we haven’t discussed Georgia politics at all this week. Instead, the week has been dedicated to America’s birthday, our system of government, and each of our responsibilities that are required if we are to continue to hold out America as the world’s beacon of freedom. The maintenance of freedom is not a passive act. It requires action and vigilance on all of our parts.
This week was a bit of a needed break, as there were barely scarce references to modern politics. Today will not be different, save for the theme will be flipped a bit. Today’s column is not aimed at the politically indifferent, but for the political junkies that would be reading political news on a Friday afternoon at the end of a long holiday week.
Sometimes breaks are needed to regain perspective. They help separate the important and consequential from the routine and the trivial. Much of our everyday lives are spent in complete reaction to an overwhelming and unlimited amount of data and stimulus. We spend much of our time simply reacting and getting through.
For those of us that spend a disproportionate share of time around politics, it is easy to be enveloped by a bubble that consumes much of our thoughts and actions. Many of us socialize with other friends who are political. Much of our communications are within the same spheres of influence. Over time, what we are thinking becomes a conscious or subconscious product of the day’s political news and actions.
For too many, government becomes a way of life – even for the ones who are constantly running or railing against it. A political action becomes the response to every situation. Talk radio and/or cable news are there to confirm our every belief, reinforce our fears, and pit us against our fellow countrymen as if politics were sport, and as if the infotainment we consume was actionable intelligence.
And then, when we do get a true break – often over a holiday with relatives or when catching up with long lost friends – it is those of us who are political who have a difficult time coming out of the bubble. Small talk is strained, as all of these people we have spent our time trying to “help” are oblivious to the nuances of tax policy, transportation improvement plans, or our foreign policy in Syria.
They instead appear more concerned with their kid’s soccer program or the quality of their schools, how to make the next payment to an orthodontist, or what kind of grass treatment they need to be putting on their lawn during 100+ degree heat. And we listen to their trivial problems and wonder why they just don’t get it.
And it should be at that point, for those of us who live in and around politics, that it dawns on us that it isn’t them who doesn’t get it. Many of us who want to get government out of our lives as much as possible spend so much time around government or listening to talking heads rail about government that we forget to live the lives we have without constantly obsessing about government.
Holidays are great for much needed breaks. Holidays away from politics are needed for the same reason. Real conversations with people who aren’t involved in the system are the best way to determine what the real problems are with government, or where government action could be of help.
When having these conversations, it’s best to be quiet and listen. Those who don’t “do politics” often have a better handle on the real problems and the potential solutions than those of us who live in a world of consultants and pundits. Listening to answers and not offering pre-determined solutions would serve all of us in the bubble much better if we tried it more often.
I’ve enjoyed the holiday, and I hope you’ve enjoyed yours. We’ll be back with Georgia political news next week on our regular schedule.