It's not surprising that "What are you wary about today" is the Question of the Day due, given the ever-forboding Ides of March; however, its timing is convenient because I finally feel like I can adequately explain my answer.
In recent weeks, I have been very anxious and I couldn't put my finger on what was causing it. I knew that being the single night-side Web Producer in a Top 15 Nielsen Market station in an election year would be difficult, if not only because it would dramatically increase the amount of political coverage I'd have to kick out on top of the day's news. As predicted, the workload is heavier, the days are longer, and the content is more intellectually exhausting. I know I'm tired and that I tend to be more sensitive when I'm not well rested, but I never counted on these emotions.
I spent weeks struggling to figure out why I feel like I''m being muffled or silenced. I feel like my voice isn't being heard. This, of course, is absurd. I write and publish dozens of articles as accurately as I can on the daily in the office. Every night, I speak with a group of friends about what nonsense our political leaders have gotten up to. The next morning, I share some of it online if I'm still feeling riled. Half a dozen usually people respond and even more "like" it.
After further analysis, I realized that the issue was not that the information wasn't well-presented or recieved. It's that I don't feel the gravity of the data is sinking in. Basically, what I am saying is that I'm losing my inner honeybadger, and am to the point where I am now giving several shits. In fact, I give so many that I am constantly carrying around a heap of cynical crap, but I don't always feel like other people are giving their fair fecal contribution to the issue.
Now, I do realize that I am more susceptible to these steaming servings due to my near-constant political immersion at work of late, and I am fully willing to admit that some of the little things occasionally seem more dramatic than they actually are. However, there are some profoundly disturbing trends right now and it scares me that a lot of people are so disenchanted they just don't care. I also think I'm feeling particularly vulnerable because I am a woman.
By now, I think everyone knows that certain Legislative movements in various states and comments by political figureheads have been very offensive and demeaning to women. Some of them I believe to be crimes against humanity, and the constant struggle for a woman's right to govern her own body and health freely is demoralizing when harmful obstacles are being put in the way of care in a blatantly hypocritical and sexist way. Abortion is legal, yet women in Texas will essentially need to consent to being raped with a 10-inch wand and then go home and think about her choice for 24 hours
, no doubt causing considerable physical discomfort and emotional distress, before she can access a procedure that was previously offered without those measures. Working women in Arizona who use contraceptive medicines to control migraines or crippling PMS may face an employer's interrogation over their sex lives or lose their jobs
. Religious organizations are furious that the Obama administration wants insurance companies to cover contraceptive medicines, but no one seems to care that most insurers cover Viagra and vasectomies, which are all the rage during March Madness. Over 600,000 American men get them each year.
The tenor of discussions in the media is almost more revolting, especially with shock jocks calling women who use birth control sluts and suggesting that having insurance cover medication is akin to wanting to be paid for sex. Having a presidential candidate who was quoted on the 1994 campaign trail saying single mothers are "breeding more criminals"
doesn't help either, especially when you consider that a lawmaker in my home state now wants to legally recognize single-parenthood as a contributing factor to child abuse
It's not just the women's issues that I think should be pulling at the public's attention either. There's the fact that signed a bill into law that tramples the First Amendment-guaranteed right to assembly
and could make protesting a political event a crime. Or that he gave the green light to drones over the U.S.
despite unanswered concerns about privacy, regulation, maintenance cost and security. Don't even get me started on the National Defense Authorization Act and the death of habeus corpus
These are all decisions and discussions that will affect -- and are already impacting -- the lives of millions of Americans. These issues, votes and signatures could fundamentally alter the way our country operates -- largely for the worse, I fear. I worry even more when I see my fellow citizens willfully maintain political ignorance or flatly deny facts -- like that the rate of violent crime severely declined after the legalization of abortion
, and that child abuse has also declined
. Or that research consistently shows that teen pregnancies increase under abstinence-only education
because -- SPOILER ALERT -- it doesn't lead to abstinence. Yet, some people will argue passionately that these are not observable truths and fight to make them into policy under law.
It seems to me that many Americans do not have an appropriate sense of perspective when it comes to politics. Many of the passionate few are ideologues, the passively-interested crowd tends to be fickle, but even more people are genuinely apathetic. Hell, over 40 percent of the eligible population just simply didn't vote in 2008. Now, there's talk of voter disenfranchisement and we haven't even got a GOP nominee yet.
Part of it is the fault of the media, and I know that I too am among the guilty. We know that anything longer than 500 words -- e.g. this virtual novella -- won't get any attention from most web surfers. So, we keep it brief to remain competitive while providing a service I still believe is fundamentally important to democracy. However, in doing so, we lose so much nuance in brevity. It's hard to adequately relay the tangible, human effects in 3 minutes of fleeting airtime, though many fine professionals give it their best shot every day to varying degrees of success. But I feel like we've lost a lot of depth and comprehension in our quest for creating the fastest and dispassionately concise news fare. Just earlier today, I complemented our weekend anchor on a a story he did about barbers seeking a law to require a license to display a barber pole. It was quirky yet oddly easy to relate to, and it was an American story. He said to me, "It felt great to do a real story again. We don't do that anymore." It's a sad commentary that proves all to true on more days than not.
The thing that keeps my feet on the ground -- and me in the saddle at the news desk -- is that there is still time and there is motion. The New York Times had a fascinating profile on how Centrist -- even moderate Republican -- women are growing disenchanted with the GOP-led restrictions and candidates
, though sadly some now say they feel less inclined to vote. Yet, there are those who now plan to vote for -- and campaign for -- Obama now. A prominent employee of Goldman Sachs publicly proclaimed disgust at the company's culture and practices, ultimately quitting
as a matter of conscience. Locally, a judge just denied a bank's attempt to demand a quarter of a million dollars from an elderly Minnesota man who was struggling with dementia when the loan was signed. And even though they're awful, hateful and dangerous amendment proposals like gay marriage bans and voter identification laws will bring people to ballot boxes. Oh, and it's totally awesome that judges are declaring those laws unconstitutional, because they totally are.
But we need an informed populace. This is vital, because the ignorant are easily misled with manipulative emotional ploys or misrepresented statistics. Is there any better example than the KONY 2012 viral campaign that swept across social media this week, despite the fact that Kony hasn't been seen in Uganda since 2005 and the people behind the project only put about 30 percent of all revenues toward their stated mission? Or the fact that the charity, Invisible Children, said Thursday it's not actually affiliated with KONY 2012, and the translated screening in Uganda was shut down when viewers began hurling rocks in outrage
? Yet, millions of people shared this video as if it were the biggest social crisis they'd seen while completely ignoring that child sex trafficking happens in the U.S. too. Perspective, man. I'm telling you.
When society starts to think that liking a Facebook status is tantamount to political involvement, we need to do more to educate our neighbors and discuss what is important in our communities. After all, helping our fellow countrymen should be a happy task for us because every little improvement makes us all stronger. In that mindset we can begin to succeed, and I think we still can.