Entertainment and Awareness

I don’t watch much TV.  In fact, I have prided myself in years past for not owning a television set at all.  There are two half hour shows that I watch on a weekly basis, if that, and then I might have the news playing in the background through breakfast or dinner.

Lately, my viewing hours have drastically increased due to the Republican Presidential debates.  These debates have been playing out and broadcast ever since May though I have paid more time and attention to them in recent months.  Sometimes they are useful to my understanding of the candidates and the issues, like on Saturday night with the ABC News/Yahoo! debate where I learned more about the history of Israeli/Palestinian relationships.  Sometimes the debates don’t really offer much, like Thursday night’s FOX News debate in Sioux City, Iowa.  Still, I want to hear what the candidates have to say, even when they don’t say much.

Politics, in some peoples’ views, is boring or our government is showing such disregard for our founding principles, they say, that these debates are not worth watching.  The average American is uninterested, even moreso if they have no intention of voting for a Republican candidate in 2012.  What perturbs me, though, is that our society permits this attitude of ignorance.  It is perfectly acceptable to watch several hours of television a day or a quarter of our waking hours throughout the week glued to a glorified light box with no awareness of political candidates or issues.  Then, when general elections have passed, those same people spend their time complaining about the President or elected officials whom they knew little about before empowering them in political office.

So as not to waste my word count on complaining about our government or criticizing the general populace, my counsel is to find some way to get informed.  If you have not already done so, research the issues, read about the candidates, write to your politicians, and get involved in our great American system.  And if you do spend several hours in front of the television set, don’t waste it all in front of entertainment that, in the grand scheme of things, will in no way benefit your life (see Chapter 1 of Neil Postman’s book Amusing Ourselves to Death for more on that line of thought).  Instead, invest your time wisely and responsibly in things that matter.  Admittedly, there are even better sources for understanding the political climate of this country than televised debates between bickering candidates who seek to gain publicity through name calling and predetermined attacks.  Still, televised debates, news reports, or conversation with your neighbor are things that will ultimately matter.  In the words of one of my favorite theologians and authors, applying this line to a different context: “Don’t waste your life.”