Despite the unprecedented turn out of new and young voters during the last presidential election which resulted in Barack Obama becoming the first African-American president, there is still pervasive cynicism among young people about our government and the political process.
From where does such entrenched cynicism come?
Is there too much reliance on the often unsubstantiated positions and edicts of political pundits and “talking heads,” especially those who feed on the sensational and daily ratings to ensure there own survival amid the crowded cacophonous airways.
Unfortunately, this undercurrent of cynicism is not just among young people. Evidence abounds that it transcends age, sex, race, ethnicity and economic class and is only surpassed by the swell of reasons flowing from government and its leaders—at all levels. From the White House to the State House. From the county seat to the city council. From an appointed board to an elected board.
You can hardly pick up the newspaper or turn on the evening news without learning of the latest transgression, proven or alleged, committed by some one who is suppose to be a protector of the public’s best interest and a keeper of the public trust.
As President Obama and Congress grapple with some of the most important issues confronting us today—healthcare reform, the war in Afghanistan, an ailing economy with high unemployment—we can’t seem to escape the new episodes of wrong doing by veteran senators or congressmen. And the plot is all too common as we hear about yet another act of financial greed or sexual indiscretion
It does not stop there. We do not have the luxury of playing the delusional game of, "Oh, that’s them, not us.” Nor can we claim that corruption and abuse of power are common place only at the higher levels of government. We have only to think of the indictments and fall of leaders in our state governments, our city councils—even school boards.
When we look at the pervasiveness of immoral, unethical and illegal behavior among our elected and appointed officials and the negative undercurrent it breeds, we must search our individual and collective souls to uncover the reasons why this problem persists. Does the blame lie solely with the perpetrators? Or must the blame be shared by us, the public, for our continual tolerance through our silence and lack of demonstrative steps that would clearly convey our outrage?
There are so many questions to grapple with when we see our elected officials consumed, and often dethroned, by scandal. How much of it is contrived by political enemies or opposing factions? How much is due to a character flaw or a lack of a moral center of strong ethical values?
More importantly, how does the public sort it all? Where does truth lie? How are we able to recognize truth when we see or hear it? As our spirits are being zapped by the latest revelation, we are expected to keep a clear mind, discerning truth as we watch and listen to the spin pundits weave and intertwine fact and fiction so freely--masking it all as possible truth. It is little wonder that public trust and confidence in our government and its leaders are at an all time low almost at every level. How could anyone possibly expect our citizens to stay engaged, avoiding being drowned by cynicism?
But, like the good swimmer, we as concerned citizens, must stay in tuned, remain watchful. An experienced and knowledgeable swimmer knows that the undertow can be deadly; and it is wise to stay attentive during the swim, remaining close to the beach or near the shore.
And like a good student of history, we must learn from and avoid the mistakes of the past. A student of history knows that many great civilizations were destroyed from within; and, therefore one must look amid the ruins and identify the negative internal forces that caused the collapse. Disenchantment is often the number one culprit.
But we cannot be good students with our eyes only glued to tube or the Internet, when almost anyone can post a thought, incomplete information and position it as the ultimate and final truth. We most commit to dig deeper on our own to get to the real sources.Television, radio, and the Internet with all of its communication tentacles (U-Tube, Twitter, Facebook, and yes the Blog) should be just the beginning of our quest for knowledge and truth around any issue that concerns us.
If we do not resume this kind of ownership of the information we consume and the impact it has on our actions, then it is very easy to become a cynical bystander.
The political undertow of cynicism claims another every time some one tunes out our democratic process.