Are Your Ears Ringing?


No, this is not a blog about tinnitus. It’s a commentary following the ringing of bells on Sunday, the anniversary of theTucson shootings, loss of lives, and re-emergence of Gabby Giffords.  Many people said the events displayed a coming together of people in a sincere feeling of community. I hope so.

This hope turns to envy when I watch the news about the Presidential primaries in Iowa and New Hampshire. I wish Arizona would allow for such a thorough study of candidates and assertion of where we stand. I have started to read A SAFEWAY IN ARIZONA: WHAT THE GABRIELLE GIFFORD SHOOTING TELLS US. Journalist Tom Zoellner takes the story way beyond that day, into the bowels of our state. I am almost afraid to read the whole thing, as it may be indigestible to find out what the majority believes in and where we seem to be going.

I am a midwesterner of Progressive influence. Growing up, we women became as vocal as men in politics, especially on the local level. Of course the settlers were farmers, and farm families were mom and pop enterprises. The discussion about elections was not about personalities, but ideas. Farmers also routinely cooperated for the greater good.

Today, I look at the TV screen when our partisan representatives are “discussing” current events, and realize they have not been trained properly in civic discourse, and especially debate. Debate was a fixture in Wisconsin high schools. The debate teams went to regional and state competitions. Additionally, our education in the English language was thorough. Our notions of how we wished to present ourselves in speech (e.g., to be “cool”) did not enter the picture. We believed the teachers. We even believed our parents most of the time.

My generation has since been judged “conformist,” which took on a negative meaning, as if we never thought for ourselves. It isn’t true. We had a lot of time to think about where we stood when we did our homework, sat around the dinner table listening to adult conversation, read books and serious magazines, and, if we were lucky, joined debating societies. We had two newspapers delivered to our home, one Democrat, the other Republican. We read more than the comics.

There’s no time in kids’ lives now to do those things. I don’t want to blame soccer, because I think exercise is a good thing. However, I do think we need to question the value of the most prevalent activity in many homes today, and that is watching sports. Compete and win. We have come to a place in politics that is like a football field, where one team has to triumph over another — all others – and players go on to great careers and huge paychecks. Before you yell back at me that I’m crazy, think about the majority of those careers, how they impact on family life and often the health of that players.  Then look at the careers of people who have been taught how to think - not what to think, but how to go on thinking, to be resilient, open, and even change their minds when they get new information. What will a beat-up and broken football star who barely got a bachelor’s degree (or not)  do from age 45 on? What will Gabby do from now on?  That is the question.

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