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Home  > Article

Is America Sleep Walking Through Its Political Issues?

By James Krehbiel

Are Americans paying less attention to the government than they should? One man's opinion about the decline in political interest, and the value of taking action.

As one of my 15 year old patients once said, ?Why should I care about politics, I can?t change anything anyway.? Nevertheless, it is my belief that feeling powerless is never an excuse for sleeping through the political process.

A patient of mine recently experienced an unusual problem. Apparently, she
got out of bed in the middle of the night, walked outside into her garage
and entered her sports car. She was changing her car clock when her
partner, who was in a panic, located her in the car. My patient was
awakened by her partner and was confused and bewildered as they left the
garage to resume their evening?s sleep.

Sleep walking is not an unusual pattern. For many, it is an infrequent
occurrence, but for others it is a lifelong experience. Recently, I have
been wondering about the manner in which many of our citizens are ?sleep
walking? through the impact of our political landscape. As a society, we
appear to be distracted and asleep at the wheel. It seems as if there is a
chronic pathology among of our people characterized by naivety,
indifference, and a lack of awareness to political and cultural issues.

I recall Jay Leno canvassing the streets of Los Angeles trying to find one
American who could tell him how many Supreme Court justices serve on our
highest bench and to identify one of their names. The responses were
pathetic and called attention to the lack of political awareness of our
citizenry. Recently, as my wife and I boarded a plane to return to
Arizona, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O?Connor was sitting in the
third row of the plane. I was not aware of one on-coming passenger who
seemed to recognize her or acknowledge her presence. When we deplaned and
headed for the luggage area, while other passengers appeared to be
oblivious to the relevance of the situation, I proceeded to introduce
myself and carry on a brief conversation with her. As one of my 15 year
old patients once said, ?Why should I care about politics, I can?t change
anything anyway.? Nevertheless, it is my belief that feeling powerless is
never an excuse for sleeping through the political process.

Although I certainly respect and support our current troops deployed in
Iraq and other locations, there is something quite disturbing about the
false sense of patriotism displayed by Americans. For example, I believe
many of us have trivialized the concept of war through the simplistic use
of bumper stickers, ribbons and other insignias signifying troop support.
What do these symbols really mean for most Americans? Are they true signs
of patriotism by those who fully understand the impact and implications of
our current war in Iraq? My brother, who was a Lieutenant and company
commander in Viet Nam cringes at the naivety and lack of awareness that
many Americans possess about the nature of terrorism, combat and military
missions. Maybe if the military adopted a conscription policy, some
Americans might rethink their form of patriotism? Maybe if they knew their
own children would be subject to going off to Baghdad, they would
reconsider the way they demonstrate their loyalty to our military efforts.
You might recall what happened when the President tried to make nice with
Congressman Jim Webb over the involvement of Mr. Webb?s son in the Iraq
war. Congressman Webb bluntly told the President to mind his own business.

Americans tend to believe that if they project an image of patriotism,
they are exempt from a deeper understanding of the implications of the war
in Iraq. How many of our people are aware of how our wounded soldiers are
being treated at Building #18 in Walter Reed Hospital? Do we understand
that the hospital is under constant review for improper patient treatment
and deplorable conditions? Are we aware that inpatient soldiers have
complained about the unsanitary conditions at the hospital including
rodents infesting the environment? How many in the Bush administration or
Congress are aware of the conditions our soldiers are subjected to and do
they care? Would any of us send our loved ones to heal in an environment
like that? Is this how we support our troops? Shouldn?t we all be
concerned about this issue? Instead we sleep walk through the military and
political debate over the mission and purposes of the Iraq war. We believe
that the political voices in Washington D.C. are more competent and
convincing than our own. We take the easy way out from committing
ourselves to being patriotic in the truest since of the word. We must walk
the walk through political action, not words.

Will we sleep walk though the debate on global warming as our oil
companies try to pay off researchers so they will reinterpret their
findings to soften the implications of global warming? We minimize the
problem by either ignoring it or by pretending to care by talking about
minutiae such as using HOV lanes and not burning wood in our fireplaces as
means of eradicating the problem of pollution. Is Al Gore?s documentary,
Inconvenient Truth, really that inconvenient that we are willing to deny
its truth? Our war in Iraq will continue to kill and maim many, but global
warming has the potential to kill us all. Will we sleep walk through this
problem by displaying our symbolic bumper stickers or will we attack the
problem with action? It will not be the terrorists who do us in, for the
enemy is at home.

Americans can no longer afford to sleep walk through the critical
political issues that we face globally. Our indifference, lack of
awareness, denial, shallowness, and lack of motivation will only serve to
escalate the dangers that we confront. It will not be ?the axis of evil?
that consumes us but our own ignorance and laziness.


James P. Krehbiel, Ed.S., LPC is an author, freelance writer, and
nationally certified cognitive-behavioral therapist practicing in
Scottsdale, Arizona. His personal growth book, Stepping Out of the Bubble
is available at James can be reached at

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