The beginning of August is a strange time in America. Kids become sick of the sports that their helicopter parents have forced them into, the attention span for Major League Baseball drops off before playoff races heat up, and Congress prepares for its long recess. To rescue the American public from these melancholy circumstances, the Discovery Channel proudly presents….SHARK WEEK! For an entire week, Americans are glued to the television with a clear mission: to make sure that naïve seals can indeed be hunted in slow motion, and that steel cages can still protect scuba divers (whew!). A noble cause, for everyone needs to see the wonders of nature. Though Shark Week peaks both our fascination with the natural world and our desire for sea food for a while, the week eventually ends and shark discussions are put on the shelf for another 51 weeks. All of the hype! All the love! All the OMG!…it gets swept aside quicker than the Lakers in the playoffs.
Sadly, this “one and done” mentality that takes place with sharks is the same that exists in the realm of politics. What’s important today is a non-issue tomorrow. Not because the problem is solved (i.e. sharks are still feared, misunderstood, and several are endangered), but because something else has yanked the attention span of the American public (I suspect Kim Kardashian will knock over an old woman at the mall, prompting a major PR campaign from the AARP against further “agist, elitist attacks on the elderly”). Tax reform. The PPACA. NPR’s funding. Medicaid. The budget negotiations. The War(s) in location X/Y/Z. All of these issues gain attention- for a short while- before they disappear from television screens. These issues (and many more) do not disappear, but get swept under the rug (to the delight of lawmakers).
We are not only now trying to tackle the national debt problems because the issue is brand new. It just happens to be on the radar. Once a “deal” is made to take a legitimate bite out of the debt, akin to those unsuspecting seals during Shark Week, the rest of the problem- still trillions of dollars- will fade away from the public’s consciousness. It’s scary to think that it is not our ‘roided-up partisanship that prevents us from accomplishing real change in the country, it’s our indifference. A divided nation with ideologies out on the table is a healthy nation. Ideas remain relevant and policies are challenged. This is not a call for marching in the streets, rather this is a call to merely encourage others to pay attention. After all, it’s encouraging to see dialogue taking place between the House and Senate regarding…hey, what’s on E! right now?