It seems for the last few months, I’ve been checking and rechecking the Free Press website, curious to see what’s new with the mayor that hour. For a while there, I was also back and forth between the freep.com and the New York Times online, seeing what was up with New York’s now-departed governor.
I’ve been drawn up into it, and as I gather from the sheer daily volume of articles on the subject and the outpouring of comments on each and every one of them, it’s a sad waste of a lot more people’s time than just mine.
In his seminal speech addressing the issue of race in this country, presidential candidate Barack Obama spoke of “distractions” – the sorts of things that keep us from focusing on what’s really important for this country.
And that’s just what this is – a distraction.
But there are plenty of really important things going on that we do need to be mindful of. As the country entered its 6th year of war in Iraq, over 4,000 American soldiers have died there, and the number of Iraqis killed in that same time period is beyond belief. On the day the Detroit mayor was arraigned in court, on a much smaller headline, located further down the page, a soldier from Detroiter was named as one of the dead. At this time, according the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, of major metropolitan regions, the Detroit-Warren-Livonia area is suffering from the highest level of unemployment in the country. 5.8% of Michigan children do not have health insurance. All things that affect us in very real ways.
People say, and I understand what they mean, that they’re tired of politics, they don’t want to talk about it, much less think about it. That’s exactly the trouble with these things that distract us. We forget that politics is not a game played out by politicians – it’s about “We, the People.” In order to form a more perfect union – politics is how the whole that is all of us, are able to make decisions – for all of us. And those decisions affect all of us – whether you’re searching for a job, living without health insurance, or sent off to war – the political process determines how the country moves.
As we get caught up in distractions, we lose sight of what’s going on right around us. Back in August as the “surge” in Iraq was starting, while driving up Van Dyke near 6 mile, I caught these words painted on the front of a decaying building: “Where’s the 20,000 troops to protect our own children and communities.” Having spent most my time in midtown and downtown, and resided in the Market, I, like so many of us, have been witness to places happily doing better all the time, and from that vantage point of development and renewal, we tend to forget that once you stray a little bit beyond those areas, this building, which has become someone’s silent plea – is more typical of the situation you’ll find.
A second hand-painted sign on the building, half-covered by foliage politely asks, “Please secure our community to protect our children and families. Thank you.” This commitment to community is what we should expect of our political system and the sort of problem that’s real, that’s in our backyard, that demands our attention.
Everything else is just a distraction. – Nick Sousanis
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