I know, I know: Sometimes politics does touch on issues whose importance to our everyday lives should not be underestimated. The pro-democracy demonstrations going on right now in Lebanon are a perfect example of a story that truly is newsworthy. But most of what we read about in the papers or see on television is neither new nor worthy of our attention. For instance, is the fact that life expectancy has increased under the Bush presidency—as it undoubtedly has under almost virtually every administration since George Washington’s—really the politcal "news" that some have claimed it out to be? And even if the claim is meant to be taken tongue-in-cheek, isn't it suggestive of the poison of partisan politics, which encourages us to see everything in terms of us-versus-them?
I think so. I also think that, all in all, the relative unimportance of American politics to daily life is a good thing. It would be very hard to maintain the sort of vigilance that our American experiment in democracy requires if every day we had to worry about whether a fundamental change was afoot.
But there’s something else about American politics that bothers me, something that has to do with the tendency of both politicians and pundits to speak in a tone that sounds suspiciously similar to the voice of that dread spirit who tempted Christ so long ago in the wilderness:
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them; and he said to him, "All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me." Then Jesus said to him, "Begone, Satan! for it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'" (Matt. 4:11)I like to think that my own disinterest in political “news” sends a similar message to those devils who continue to promise us the world in exchange for our adulation. But, alas, this is probably hoping too much. Still, it’s a message that our political leaders could stand to hear. So let’s all do our favorite politicians a favor and write them a letter telling them just how unimportant they really are.
Who knows? Perhaps this news will give them the courage they need to reach the sort of sober-minded, well-considered compromises that our fractured country so desperately needs right now. At the very least, it might give them reason to doubt whether their latest plan to "save" us is really necessary. And that, it seems to me, would be a very good thing indeed.