This week, fellow First Drafter Cassandra wrote a piece about how angry people are right now – at the wrong stuff, due to being clueless about the current situation. This will continue that general theme.
Americans tend to not be very good at knowing what’s really happening. The public tends to have completely wrong beliefs about crime, child abduction, and American exceptionalism. These false ideas are driven by prejudice, bad information sources, and American mythology.
This is not good, because a shared, accurate sense of reality is vital for our democracy. We now, more than ever, need something that can be referred to as A Clarity of the Current.
A clarity of the current means bracketing out preconceived ideas based on nothing real at all, such as “it can’t happen here.” We know it can happen here. It already has. Remember all the people who strongly believed that America simply couldn’t elect Trump? We started with “Trump can’t possibly win the nomination” and then that level of bizarre blind faith continued right up to “Trump will just leave, there won’t be any violence.” And now, it doesn’t seem like enough Americans understand the threat that Republicans are posing to our very democracy.
We need to understand what’s really happening. Decent Americans can’t check out, and they need to realize what’s at stake. This isn’t “well, that’s just your opinion.” To those people, I say this: Think about how often you’ve been surprised by what has happened in politics over the last five year. Ponder the multiple times that conservatives have done something that if someone said to you 10 years ago that they would do, you’d dismiss it as hyperbole. And be honest.
It’s vital to pay attention now, to understand context, to be able to sort through everything that is happening. It means getting information from trusted sources, such as things that are not shared by your crazy Uncle Claude on Facebook. It means being a shrewd news consumer. It’s not the time to dismiss it as “oh, silly politics” or tell everyone that you’re too busy for the news (the majority of people who say this, if they were Pinnochio they’d be able to push a vending machine button with their nose at 1,000 paces).
Buckle up, buttercup, your country needs to you to pay attention. This doesn’t mean you have to doomscroll, but also don’t check out. People not paying attention is why the Virginia governor’s race is so close, why Biden’s approval is down, and why people are not hair-on-fire about the threats to our democracy poised by Republicans. It’s not all on our public, as many in the media are to blame as well.
News coverage often lacks context, downplays issues, leaves out key facts, and both-sides poor behavior by Republicans. This is a bad time for that, as there is so much misinformation muddying the waters. Everything is reduced to numbers and a horserace – the coverage of the reconciliation bill has been 24/7 THREE POINT FIVE TRILLION OMG OMG and what it might do to Biden’s presidency and little about what is in it and how it would help Americans. Also, context about dangerous behavior by conservatives is often lost by exclusion, like when the Washington Post reported on political divisions in a Montana town as if it was both sides at fault, leaving out the fact that the area is a hotbed for white nationalists.
This will not do. The decent Americans who want our democracy to thrive must be aware of what is going on, of the deep threats, and be willing to accept that reality. I know that in some cases, people don’t want to believe that the nation they thought of as a beacon of freedom has such a deep threat to its system coming from within, nor do they want to think that their conservative neighbors hold potential to be violent tools of an authoritarian rule. So many stories of the rise of authoritarianism, from Hitler to Pinochet, include how these regiemes took hold thanks in part due to complacency among the populace, who refused to accept to could happen to them. We are in real danger of that happening, in some form, here.
We need to people to be awake…to have a clarity of the current.
The last word goes to the Manic Street Preachers…who knew this song would be so relevant to America 23 years after it was released: