All politics, all the time?

Published 9:50 am Thursday, October 5, 2017

By Tom Purcell

It’s everywhere you turn these days. I can’t take it anymore.”

“Ah, yes, you speak of a regrettable fact of modern life – that politics is in our face everywhere we go, even in professional sports.”

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“Professional sports always provided a respite from the worries of the real world. It was the one area where I could always escape the stress and strain of politics, which has gotten pretty ugly in recent years.”

“Well, on one hand, it is a positive sign of a free and vibrant society that people of all walks of life feel free to criticize their country and government. If a North Korean athlete tried to criticize his government during the opening ceremonies of a sporting event, he’d be hanged, shot or imprisoned.”

“That’s for certain. But on the other hand?”

“On the other hand, it’s not easy to have sympathy for multimillion-dollar athletes who refuse to stand for ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ and salute our flag. Look, challenges remain in our country regarding equality, police brutality and many other issues, but the American flag is a symbol that should unite us rather than divide us.”

“Yes, in our representative republic, there is most certainly a place for politics, and we need to debate public policy. But the vast majority of my life has nothing to do with politics. The vast majority of my life involves working hard to get ahead so I can provide better for my family, and making countless sacrifices for my kids so that they will hopefully achieve the American dream far better than I have been able to do.”

“You raise an interesting point – one that may help to explain the incredible divide in our country between conservatives who distrust political solutions and more liberal-minded folks, who enthusiastically promote politics and government as the solutions to our greatest challenges.”

“Go on.”

“Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, did some fascinating research for his 2008 book ‘Gross National Happiness.’ After mining ‘happiness data’ from several surveys and studies, he identified significant differences between conservatives and liberals that shed light on our recent hyper-politicization.”

“For instance?”

“Conservatives hold more traditional values – faith, marriage, family, freedom, hard work. Like you, they believe in the individual and just want to be left alone, free to address and resolve their own problems. They distrust politics and government. They certainly don’t want political protests being infused into their favorite sporting events.”

“That’s exactly what I think. What about liberals?”

“Liberals are not as likely to marry, have children or go to church. They’re far more likely to feel exploited by others. People who feel victimized by social and economic forces beyond their control are more likely to see politics as a way to address and resolve their problems.”

“That makes sense, but I still don’t agree with it.”

“Well, with 24/7 cable news and social media, such people are able to politicize every little thing under the sun. Facebook users have no shortage of blogs, posts, videos and other fodder to support one political position over another. Like it or not, they have been very successful at infusing politics into NFL games and pretty much every other area of life.”

“Hey, it’s a free country. Liberals and famous athletes can infuse politics wherever they want. But average Joes like me get to vote, too.”

“How will you vote?”

“I vote to go for a hike in the woods with the wife on Sunday afternoons rather than watch a bunch of multimillionaire athletes lecture me with their political opinions.”

Tom Purcell is a syndicated columnist.