L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 279, July 11, 2004
We celebrate our Independence
Special to TLE
This past week, I traveled back home for a family event. As most of you know, I decline to fly (and will continue to do so as long as needlessly invasive security measures remain in place). That means I spent two very long days behind the wheel of a rental car with little to do but endure traffic jams on my way through several large cities and listen to the radio.
On my first day on the road, virtually every talk show featured discussions of former President Bill Clinton's autobiography. Callers chimed in to say that they thought he was a good guy with some bad habits, or that he was perhaps the "lyingest" politician ever to hold office (which, given the typical politician, is really saying something). Snippets of Clinton's appearances on the media circuit were aired and dissected at length. It was, without question, the story of the week.
After my weekend visit with friends and family, I was back on the road and listening to news talk shows once again. This time, from station to station, the topic of the day was filmmaker Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11. Callers told hosts the movie was a lengthy political attack ad, or that Moore might have had a point amidst his manipulated material. The "documentary" (I use the term exceedingly loosely) was number one at the box office over the weekend in ticket sales, and was patently the top story leading off the newsweek.
After having spent a couple of days hearing the airwaves thoroughly saturated with these two stories, it might be reasonable to assume that pretty much everybody was talking about books and movies, most especially those from Bill Clinton and Michael Moore. But it struck me that, in the time between those two days in my car, neither of these things were mentioned even once.
I'm from a place that east and west coast liberals like to scathingly refer to as "flyover country." People there are stolidly middle class, family-oriented, hard working, and usually possessed of feet planted firmly on the ground. In other words, they exemplify the traditional average decent American, the backbone of the country and, lest the politicos be tempted to forget, a sizeable voting block. And what were these people talking about while much of the media was waxing eloquent on literary liars and fibbing filmmakers? Well, aside from catching up with the latest family or local goings on, they seemed to find plenty to discuss, including:
Politicians in this election season talk about the bad things their opponents have done in the past while glossing over their own indiscretions (sure, Jack Ryan isn't a couth man, but he's one up on former President Clinton seeing as how he at least wanted to commit his sexual peccadilloes with his own wife). Members of the media listen closely to what people like Barbra Streisand or Ann Coulter have to say about politics, and it seems that right and wrong are all too frequently dismissed in favor of right and left. Talk show hosts on both ends of the political spectrum are spending substantial air time on books and movies instead of more important issues (for the moment, anyway; perhaps next week, we'll see the topic change to something equally impactful, like whether or not John Kerry's hair looks good on televisionsomething else, by the way, I actually heard discussed at some length one afternoon a few weeks ago).
But ordinary Americansthe ones that America is supposed to be all about, and who even now comprise the vast majority of the populationhave little in common with politicians (thank God!), the media, or the famous elite. Instead, despite the efforts of politicians, the media, and the famous elite, their concerns are close to home and hearth and very much resemble those worries expressed by my own family and former neighbors last weekend.
Perhaps instead of a junket to Europe, politicians might consider a trip back home for a family reunion where they might finally get a little dose of the reality the rest of us live in. Maybe instead of another sensational interview with a woman who killed her babies, talk show hosts should think about an interview with a mother who loves her childrenand worries about their future in light of various of the present trends in government.
Or maybejust maybethe majority of Americans who are ordinary peopleand who have perfectly ordinary problemsshould stand up and be extraordinarily angry that they're being ignored. While I doubt that Barbra Streisand or Dan Rather would care, politicians are easy. They'll go where the votes are. It's just up to the voters to let them know in no uncertain terms where those votes lieand where they'll be cast instead if attention isn't paid to those things that really matter. The catch, of course, is that voters have to care about politicians as much as politicians don't care for the average citizen. And that's a whole 'nother battle, one that may prove even harder to win.
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