It used to be fun to talk about politics. Well, not always fun — the topics were often rather serious. But it felt good to come together and hear the ideas of other folks.
The conversations were useful as well — after last year’s terrible tragedy in Newtown, Conn., a friend of mine shared a valuable article about public safety. At the time of the shooting, he favored teachers being trained to use firearms. I work in a school and I hate that idea.
Still, I read the article he posted on Facebook and it inspired me to talk to our principal and to urge her to get more safety training for our staff. Others encouraged similar ideas, and our principal ended up bringing in local police officers. They reviewed the building as well as our emergency plans, and they provided some suggestions for improvement. Nearly a year later, no one on our staff is carrying a weapon. But our school is a lot safer.
So, who says we shouldn’t talk about politics?
OK, me. I say it. Even after giving you that example, even after instigating a lot of the conversations myself, even after reading political news day after day, and welcoming discussions on abortion or gun control or immigration, I say enough is enough. I am sick of politics. I am done.
We told you so, some of my friends are going to tell me.
Because I have friends who stay off Facebook and Twitter and only lightly peruse the news in the aftermath of big events – like the verdict in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. Politicos of little faith, I have shaken my head at them. People who cut and run when the conversations get tough.
And now I want to join them.
I have been feeling a little bit like this for a while, like all this talking is getting us nowhere. And fast. But the government shutdown is really what closed down my interest in politics.
Every day, I have pulled up the news on my computer only to see how much energy has been spent by each political party to gain control of this narrative, to be first in this story, and I think, my God, we are dependent on these buffoons.
Then I log onto Facebook and I read how my friends are evenly divided between these two camps of fools – The Money Wasters and the Other Money Wasters – and I think there has to be something better than this. It’s that old joke – why do we call them political parties when they are not fun at all?
We seem to have lost the ability to come together in the middle and reach a point of consensus. That’s not news, but I still hate it. I am the middle child in a family of both Republicans and Democrats. I love consensus.
Historians will look back on this time – when the first African American was in the White House and our economic growth was the most stagnant in decades – and discuss how much our attitudes on race and class drove this bickering. But that does us no good while we’re living in the middle of it.
Sometimes I think the only situation is to disavow our parties all together – to refrain from identifying ourselves as either or or, so we can get down to the issues and the solutions.
Notice I haven’t mentioned the political parties by name here. Why should I? Are they worth my air time?
What is worth this space and my time and yours as well is the idea that we can come together and solve the problems. That different people with different views can make it work. That a school can be safer because someone who loves guns shared an article with someone who doesn’t.
Why have we lost sight of that?