Juvenile politics

It’s understandable why so many area young people decided they would rather play sports every week this summer than set aside a few days to learn about civics at Boys and Girls State.

It’s not that sports have become more popular than civics. It’s that what passes for civics has become little more than sport.

The main benefit trickling down to those of us who pay for all this seems to be valueless knowledge that one group or another has managed to squeal loud enough to scored more points in a meaningless, media-covered form of entertainment.

Take, for example, our congressman, who can’t seem to let a day go by without spending taxpayer money issuing half a dozen news releases decrying anyone who doesn’t agree with his views, slightly to the right of Genghis Khan.

In a recent pronouncement, bearing the obnoxious title “Tornado pets less important than tortured babies,” he blasts the media for providing news about pets and farm animals displaced by Oklahoma tornadoes rather than continually covering “viable babies tortured to death without anesthesia.”

Come on, congressman. We’re used to receiving daily diatribes from Westboro Baptist Church. Surely it’s not necessary for you to try to shout even louder.

Abortion is a difficult issue. No one is pro-abortion or anti-life. It’s more complicated than that. And no point is served by constantly highlighting legitimate differences of opinion among moral people.

Politicians are supposed to seek compromise, not further radicalize issues. When people aren’t listening, there’s no point in shouting louder.

Tea party Republicans seem most likely to behave this boorishly, but the other side is hardly any better. A day after the congressman’s tirade, the federal Department of Health and Human Services also spent taxpayer money telling every editor in Kansas about the latest from some New York Times opinion writer.

The writer, so reviled by some that there’s an Internet site devoted to parodies of his work, quoted a Kansas doctor as saying Obamacare may deserve a chance.

Perhaps it does. It will provide health care for the poor and incentives for businesses to pay for insurance. But it also may break the bank. At this point, no one knows for sure what its lasting legacy will be.

The bigger question is what business is it of a federal agency, tasked with enforcing not making laws, to distribute the private cell phone number and email address of a doctor featured in an opinion column and offer to arrange interviews with her and various bureaucrats? That’s arguing, not governing.

Even charities are behaving like media-crazed zombies. Watch other publications in coming weeks and see whether you see lots of ads and news stories supporting the very worthwhile cause of the American Red Cross.

It’s not that the papers suddenly got inspired to support a noble cause. It’s that the Red Cross sent out an offer last week to provide up to $5,000 in prizes for local editors if they give the charity free ads and news stories.

Time was we called that payola. Nowadays it’s typical behavior in a world where image is everything and reality and ethics be damned.

We hope there’s a mercy rule in this new sport called civics. The score already is Politicians a gazillion, People nothing. Perhaps playing games all summer really is less juvenile than going to Boys or Girls State.

When this writer attended decades ago, civics was about learning how to make the world better. Now it’s about pulling every trick imaginable just to make it louder.

— ERIC MEYER

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