Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Reject junk food for the mind

Americans have slowly grasped the fact that a steady diet of junk food?cheap food with lots of calories and little real nourishment?has made us fat and unhealthy. We are only just finding out that the long-term costs of choosing cheeseburgers over garden salads could harm our pocketbooks as much as our waistlines.

What we have yet to figure out is the high cost of the political junk food we consume in place of thoughtful and intelligent discussion of issues critical to our nation.

When vacation season ends, the campaigns for president will intensify, perhaps to levels never seen by most Americans alive today. Some observ-ers are calling the upcoming presidential election the election of a lifetime. Organizers are calling upon Americans to vote as if our lives depend on it.

If the last presidential election proved anything, it was that no American can ever again say that it doesn?t matter who becomes president.

The U.S. has a potful of problems before it that, left unresolved, could threaten its very existence.

North Korea and Iran, who hate the U.S., are on the verge of becoming nuclear powers.

Iraq is still a lot more like a war zone than a peaceful democracy.

A rising sea of red ink threatens to leave the nation floundering in a fight for its life for generations to come.

An economy built on the shifting sands of oil from the Middle East binds us to monarchs and tyrants who use oil money to enrich themselves while their people--ignorant, superstitious and impoverished?believe Americans are their enemies.

Yet, as our problems have grown, our level of political discourse has sunk to new lows.

Shouting or sloganeering now passes for informed debate. Witness the preponderance of television?s talking heads and radio commentators, whose stock in trade is to interrupt, bully and ridicule the person they are inter-viewing. Too often they claim the ?win? by labeling those interviewed as ?nut cases.?

This is a stupid and meager education for any voter.

For voters to understand what?s happening in and to America, they must turn off the tube, read broadly?and think. No one can do it for us. We must reach out for newspapers, books, and journals from respected organizations and authors. We must explore viewpoints from people from a broad range of backgrounds.

The First Amendment to the Constitution was drafted to protect the free flow of information and our right to it. Ultimately though, it will be wasted on us if we fail to take advantage of it.

If we are to remain a smart, well informed, and nimble nation, we must refuse to be spoon-fed cheap junk food for the mind by purveyors of political poppycock more interested in their Nielsen ratings than in their service to America.

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