During a junior high school public speaking assignment, I recall making a speech in which I said that Nixon was afraid to debate his opponent because his opponent would make him “eat cheese” before the public. At that time, the phrase “eat cheese” meant that the individual had to bow down to a greater force. Also during this time period, the networks would cover the national political conventions gavel to gavel for the duration of the whole week. Even at an early age, I had an intense interest in all things political at the national level. Perhaps it was preordained or natural that I would become a Political Science professor. Yet, it would be disingenuous of me to say that my level of political efficacy remained constantly high. It did not. There were periods in my life when apathy was a preferred code of conduct. Voting was perceived as corny at best and nerdy at worst. Nevertheless, apathy was a political decision.
Network coverage of national political conventions has dwindled into nightly prime time keynote speaker slots and evening news sound bites. Entertainment value determines who succeeds or fails in the political arena. We are inundated with style yet void of substance. We experience blurred lines between “Entertainment Tonight” and “Nightline.” Sixty Minutes is teetering on sixty seconds while “20/20” is in need of Lasik’s surgery. To add insult to injury, real journalism is under attack from an aggressive far right regime bringing legitimate journalism under pseudo criticism with the “fake news” disinformation campaign. Layman adherents to the regime’s simplistic rhetoric simply shut down and refuse to hear truth and logic. Evidence of America’s political decline became apparent with the election of its 45th President.
Despite the aforementioned types of political withdrawal, there is a more insidious type of a political existence. The title of this article is very apropos for this more insidious form of political withdrawal. Some citizens are totally oblivious to all things political. To this sector, elections truly take on the character of ritualistic political horse races. The only concern is who is winning. Statistics and polls plaster the understanding with the false equivalency of deep learning. Some citizens have no consciousness of politics whatsoever. Such people could disappear in a political haze never knowing what them. Of such an existence one who inhales politics must be careful not to be judgmental. To court the mundane and superficial is a luxury. In a strange way, it can be a preferred state of existence. What is wrong with an existence void of war? Bliss based on oblivion can be cheerful. To live without newspapers and nightly news can be also be cheerful. When everything is funny and we cannot distinguish between professors and standup comedians, are we to assume life is good? When there is no conscious distinction between reality television, scripted television, and serious documentaries, are to assume that life’s only important consequences are an out of touch politician’s tweets and celebrity postings on social media? Routines can be nice. Boredom even has its place. Let us be thankful that we are not surrounded by”bombs bursting in air.” On the other hand, American political decline would not be so laughable if the stakes were not so high.
We have a dyed in the wool racist in the White House. Our system of government has bestowed legitimacy and power on his bigotry. It would not be such a good feeling to wake up in shackles and chains wondering what happened.
Anthony Neal earned his Ph.D. in political science from Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University). Dr. Neal is an associate professor at State University College, Buffalo. The author of numerous book reviews and journal articles, he has had his work published in the Western Journal of Black Studies, the Journal of Black Studies, and Black Issues in Higher Education. In 2014 Dr. Neal received the university’s Faculty Appreciation Award, was named Instructor of the Year by the university’s United Student Government, and Professor of the Year by the Student Political Society in the Department of Political Science. In 2015, he published The American Political Narrative which is a succinct yet poignant narrative about the development of the American political system and what is needed to maintain it. In 2016, he published a book of poetry entitled “Love Agnostic | from 9/11 to Charleston”