The United States of America has its share of triumphs and problems, both of which should be noted by discerning patriots. Unfortunately, triumphs need no work; they live in the memory but need no solutions. Practical observers could easily point out many ways that this nation could improve itself, many things that could be done to alter its missteps.
The sad thing is that, in light of all of the legitimate crises facing the world at large, politicians and media create false crises for their own political or monetary gain. These distractions serve to win votes and viewers, but fail to create meaningful discourse or solutions.
Our political system is, for better or worse, muddled and difficult to penetrate. Interest groups, industries, politicians, political organizers, and ordinary citizens all attempt to participate in our system with varying degrees of success. Everyone is trying to defeat someone else; it is an inherently vicious system. Politicians do not necessarily strive for the welfare or wishes of those they represent. I’m sure that there are some politicians who genuinely care about the desires and needs of their constituents, but most representatives will do only what they must to get reelected.
It is this insatiable hunger for votes that drives many politicians to create issues out of thin air or at least magnify insignificant issues. In Oklahoma, the state in which I attend school, senator Tom Coburn suggested that girls in the state may only go to the bathroom at school one at a time due to a wave of lesbianism in the educational system. These remarks had absolutely no statistical or observational support. They are simply the musings of one unbelievably ignorant representative. Yet, making an issue appear to be real reaps real political rewards. Conservative voters in Oklahoma, afraid of an imaginary rise in lesbianism, are more likely to vote for Coburn because he shares their same unfounded concerns.
Such political pandering and issue-dodging has long been a feature of political systems across the globe. However, the rise of mass media and communications has facilitated the spread of imaginary issues. The media illuminate every inane comment or false remark made by political figures in order to upset viewers (this is good for ratings). I especially enjoy Bill O’Reilly’s “culture war” segments, wherein he digs up obscure controversies and applies them to every facet of American social life.