Look! Look Over There!

We’ve all had a good laugh about them. Windmills (or wind turbines) causing cancer. Hamberders. Misspellings and infelicities and midnight tweets. Jokes and memes that highlight them.

But those aren’t really what’s important. They’re distractions. And as such, they’re working wonderfully well. (Even politicians create distractions, setting up “straw man” arguments and inventing “crises” where there are none, thereby distracting us from whatever real news is released on Friday evenings when everyone sensible is out getting insensible. But I digress. We were talking about funny memes, clever insults, and assorted joshing. Or at least I was.)

What is all this humor and misdirection distracting us from? Well, everything that’s important, really. It doesn’t even really matter what your issue is or whether you lean right or left. There are plenty of things happening in society that need our attention, desperately need it. Instead, we’re visiting the sideshow.

Second amendment – pro or con? Likewise with abortion. Education – public or private or for-profit or homeschool? Science education or religious education? Rule of law or lenient judges? The Supreme Court. The environment – more or less regulation? The same with banks and industries. Health care. Whatever your issues, they are bound to be more important than umbrella usage or First Ladies’ wardrobes.

Admittedly, we all need a good laugh right about now. Matters are so serious – issues of war and peace, literally life and death. When things get too awful, the tendency is to look away, to whistle past the graveyard, to find the humor. And those can be good things – to renew the spirit, refresh the mind, blow away the cobwebs, and lighten the darkness.

But there’s so much frivolity being bandied about that I worry our issues and our commitment to them can get lost. And after all, what does posting or passing along jokes and memes really matter? It’s not like the targets will ever see them. Robert Mueller doesn’t read Facebook. Neither does Brett Kavanaugh or Wayne LaPierre. Or Hillary. Or Joe. Or Bernie. (The one exception to this is Donald Trump. We know he cares about the Twitterverse and even contributes to it.) Whoever you’re making fun of literally never sees it. The only persons affected are you and your friends, or your former friends.

It’s the problem of preaching to the choir, or in this case, laughing in the echo chamber. And yes, I laugh at these jokes and memes too. I am not immune. And I do pass along the ones I consider amusing or pointed or maybe even thought-provoking. But I hold no illusions that this will change anything – not people’s minds and not public policy.

The pass-alongs and memes, however, may give us all the power to carry on promoting what we believe in, whatever that may be, if we care enough to rouse ourselves to action. Inform yourself from a variety of reliable sources. Join organizations. March. Send postcards or call your representatives. They’re supposed to represent us, after all, so listening to constituents is what they’re supposed to do. Vote. Especially, vote. I vote religiously, if not religiously, if you see what I mean. But if your religion (or lack thereof) is what motivates you to vote, then more power to you. Literally.

Then, when you’ve done that, come on home and spend an hour watching late-night comedy or surfing the web or posting pictures of your dinner or your cats. You need renewal, and you’ve earned it. A lot of other things about the country need renewal, too. And that won’t happen if all we do is point our fingers and laugh.

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