The publicity for the Trayvon Martin killing served to emphasize the depths of our culture. When the Samford, Florida Police Department announced that the killer, George Zimmerman, would not be charged, Martins family was understandably outraged. They asked MSNBC’s Rev. Al Sharpton to pick up the case and publicize it nationally. Of course, that meant that Fox News Channel and right-wing radio had to take the side of George Zimmerman.
If a travesty such as the Martin case can be politicized, I guess we shouldnt be surprised that every other part of our culture is viewed through the same divisive lenses. We have politicized science, education, health care, contraception, religion, race, women’s rights, the environment, the military, our judiciary, veterans affairs, Social Security, Medicare, guns, energy, agriculture, sports and, of course, journalism.
That hasnt always been the case. Prior to the early 80s, evolution was considered settled science. Few questioned our education system. Religion did not intrude in the classroom, except in parochial schools. Outside of our military, no one carried guns except police and criminals. And the media were bound by high standards of objectivity.
Following the debacle of Watergate, the moribund Republican Party made an unholy alliance with evangelical leaders. Later, the Fairness Doctrine was repealed unleashing conspiracy talk radio. Evangelists flooded radio and cable television with conservative politics and the message that Christianity was under attack. Greedy right-wing mouthpieces like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck filled the airwaves with their theories of a New World Order. Rupert Murdoch built a media empire on hate and Teapublican talking points. And worst of all, the National Rifle Association and American Legislative Exchange Council began writing legislation and recruiting state legislators to serve their ideological agendas.
And our conservative-leaning populace sucked it all in.
So here we are…arguing about racism, judicial activism, contraception, the origin of personhood, immigration, Bible studies and prayer in the classroom, religious messages in government buildings, cutting taxes for the rich, guns on campus, etc., etc., etc.
And all the while were arguing, the real problems such as a crumbling infrastructure, economic inequality, the exodus of high-paying jobs, too-big-to-fail corporations, climate change, the extinction of wildlife, an increasingly inaccessible and unaffordable health care system, and massive national debt are only getting worse.