The apathetic American left
I walked down to the CVS in Squirrel Hill for a pack of condoms the other day, sex-crazed and with a dry throat, and had a brief moment of dread and fear when the entrance was blocked by a group of middle-aged Christians holding dead-fetus banners. “They never had a choice,” the captions read, and at the bottom an image of Christ on the cross stared back at me. There was something oddly poetic about this group of mostly overweight women prancing around and shouting to no one in particular. What especially struck me was the lack of bystanders gathered to hear their message. A stack of pamphlets sat on a table outside of the entrance untouched. Nobody cared.
I got to thinking: When was the last time a protest made any noise? When was the last time a group of political activists did anything but make the top story of the evening news only to never be mentioned again? Americans have become the generation of the New Dumb: ignorant to the issues and without a care in the world. Where were you when the country stopped caring?
I’m not just singling out the middle-aged Jesus-freak crowd as ineffective. Actually, in today’s America they’re fighting for the group that’s constantly winning: the religious right. The liberal movement as a whole has completely lost its voice in modern America. There are no groups left in this country that command respect from the public as a whole, voicing their opinions loudly and refusing to back down for their cause. It is the age of diplomacy instead of the age of action as it had once been in this country. Nobody wants to have a clear-cut message anymore. An excellent example is the left’s lack of a clear stance on abortion. Liberals are completely afraid of stepping on people’s toes or being offensive and are subsequently losing some part of their demographic. The fact is, Americans don’t care about anything political anymore and — get this — it’s not their fault. Since the American Dream is to pass blame on somebody else, I’m going to give America the proverbial freebie on this one.
We have reached an age in this country in which no respectable public figures from the left are stepping up for the causes they believe are right. Sure, groups of people get together every now and then, marching through the streets until police officers arrive and break the scene up, but what liberal political group in this country has a leader you can look at and directly associate with an issue? This isn’t the ’60s and ’70s anymore, which is completely evident by the lack of memorable political figures outside of the official political arena. Where’s the Malcolm X of gay marriage? When is immigration going to find the leadership of a Cesar Chavez? Are any of the Iraq protest groups ever going to find a leader that rivals Abbie Hoffman?
You’re probably beginning to understand what I’m getting at. I don’t blame Americans for lacking interest in American issues because, quite frankly, none of the issues have attracted any interesting figureheads yet. You can’t attract thousands of supporters to a gay marriage rally by booking a local Unitarian Church minister to give his thoughts on the state of our country. Until these issues start to gain some true star power, some of the Martin Luther King-esque eloquence that so marked the civil rights movement of the 1960s, it is unfair to expect the average American to give a damn about them.
Perhaps you disagree. Perhaps you think that I’m selling Americans short and that the average American, even with all the celebrity gossip worship, reality television programming, and fast food consumption, still has time to learn all angles of an issue. Maybe you believe that the average American still has the ability to understand the complex nature of political issues facing this country, and that no excuse should be made for those citizens who ignore the problems facing their country; that these particular Americans should find inspiration in the issues themselves, as opposed to the leaders of each respective movement inspiring them to get off the couch and make full use of their voice as members of a democracy.
But can we really blame these people for needing a spectacle to draw their attention to the political sphere? Maybe this country has been spoiled with great leadership in the past. Maybe we had a few scattered decades of great leaders who could inspire a nation, and these few leaders should be the exception instead of the rule.
Regardless of what you believe regarding those points, you can’t argue with the fact that every high-school-age student in America is in a history classroom learning about Malcolm X, Bobby Seale, and Che Guevara and then heading home to watch the news and wonder why figures like that don’t exist in modern-day society. And before kids get a chance to truly ponder this fact, they sit down in front of the television and get exposed to today’s leaders: Ryan Seacrest, TomKat, and, of course, Brad and Angelina. Yes sir, nothing like dulling the senses and living the American Dream to its fullest.
The true frustration comes from the average American’s inability to spot the lack of political direction. It seems as though after we began to right the (political) ship in the ’60s and ’70s, our good faith overtook our better judgment. We now live under the assumption that decisions made by our political leaders must, under any circumstance, be what are ultimately best for our nation’s future. Even if we disagree, as a whole we figure that voicing our opinion can make no major difference.
Without the leadership of a few inspirational figures outside of the Congressional political arena, American liberals are doomed to wallow in their own self-pity for another few decades. On the other hand, there’s always the possibility that one of these figures will break through in the near future, rallying Americans for or against any or all of the hot-button issues facing our disenfranchised nation. Have no fear, ladies and gentlemen, for when that day arrives and that leader takes center stage, you’ll recognize it. But you might not care.