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11/06/2012 @ 9:26am

Have you noticed that you don’t see teeter-totters on playgrounds anymore?

There’s a reason for that.  They’re dangerous.  They don’t have to be, of course. If a couple of kids are about the same size and work together, all is well, but what happens more often than not is that one kid is considerably bigger, or else slides out to the very edge.  In an attempt to stay balanced, the kid on the other end slides out to the very edge.  Sooner or later someone gets catapulted into the air and ends up with a broken arm or lost teeth.  It’s not a bad toy, just a dumb way to use it.

It’s an even dumber way to run a political system.

I’m writing this before the election and it’ll be published after the election.  My wife and I were out of the country for the last two weeks, which means we missed Hurricane Sandy AND forty-two bazillion political ads.  When we got home and flipped on the TV, we sat in stunned silence for about five minutes listening to the barrage of lies, and damned lies.  It was worse for me, because at the same time, I was wading through our emails and deleting funding requests from politicians.  

We’d been trying to block out the election while we were gone, but it wasn’t easy.  What a lot of Americans don’t realize is that while we may not worry much about elections in New Zealand or Iceland, most of the rest of the world worries about American elections, because when we screw things up, the whole world suffers.  In two weeks we talked with people from eleven countries and they were all about as well informed about American politics as the average voter you run into here.  Even 10,000 miles away from home, coverage of the American election led TV news every night.  Luckily, no ads - which was a huge blessing.

This is no way to run a country.  The average person can see that. I hear it all the time, from folks on all sides of the political aisle.  No successful enterprise exists that has half its employees trying to destroy the other half, but that’s what our government has turned into.  There is an edge and meanness to this election unlike most, and it’s not being fed by political professionals alone.  Ordinary citizens are so angry, so dismayed, at how little attention is being paid to the real business of government.

It’s like watching the kids on the teeter-totter spiral out of control, with no adults around to shout some sense at them.  We all know what happens in the end.  Somebody loses a tooth or breaks an arm and all the other kids stand around, trying to look innocent.  And inevitably, the ones who are the best at looking innocent are the same ones who were encouraging the riders out to the far edge.

No matter who wins the election, some adults need to step up, need to point at the people who don’t want to play nice and kick them off the playground.

Because the election is just the beginning and we can’t treat our future like it’s all just a game.

Copyright 2011 Brent Olson

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