Many of us actually look forward to seeing those ads, making the Superbowl a somewhat unique sporting event. When was the last time you sat on the couch, anxiously awaiting a television ad? For those of us in New England, the ads may be our favorite part of the game.
But should the Superbowl become politicized? Should the NFL ban political ads?
Before you respond, consider this:
Last year’s Super Bowl was estimated to have had the largest audience in TV history, with around 177 million people tuning in for at least six minutes of the game. That’s around 56% of the current U.S. population. By comparison, an estimated 126 million people voted in the 2012 U.S. presidential election, according to the Los Angeles Times.
As someone who makes my living helping clients deliver their messages, I am fascinated by the prospect of the Superbowl and its powerful viewing impact. And as someone who is also a self-described political junkie, I also can’t get enough controversy and political debate into my daily news feed.
But maybe Americans should have just one event that we can enjoy without political debate and controversy. Isn’t it enough that the country will be divided between those cheering tonight for the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers? Can’t we all just get along for just one night and watch grown men tackle each other on artificial grass?
Having one night without political debate — whether it’s about gay rights, gun control, abortion or climate change — could give folks on both sides of those issues a much-needed opportunity for an intellectual break, a vacation for the brain and an opportunity to come back to the debate well rested on Monday morning.
More importantly, moving the Superbowl’s focus back toward football would also allow all of us — Democrats, Republicans, Greens, Libertarians and the apathetic — to jointly and collectively celebrate a shared common experience: something innocuous and innocent, like Doritos, Budweiser and the newest I-Phone.
As John Lennon urged us to do, imagine the benefits — if just for one night — that there was nothing to fight about.
Except, of course, which team gets to take home the trophy.
As the awful news began to unfold, I urged friends and family members to pause and refrain from using this tragedy to further support political/policy agendas. I was unable, –am still unable — to comprehend what happened. It seems impossible to shoulder the weight of this horrific tragedy.
“Today is not the day to have these conversations,” I wrote on my Facebook page yesterday. “Today is a day to grieve and to support one another.”
Those words strike me as empty, hollow. . .meaningless. Over the last 24 hours, our nation has experienced a range of emotions: rage, grief, shock, fear and despair.
So, how do we move forward? How do we reconcile those feelings, the raw emotions that carry us into another day?
Understandably, many of us are searching for answers, for meaning. We have different opinions, and I submit that those opinions are all vital, all necessary for the larger conversation that we can no longer ignore.
The response to my Facebook post was generally respectful. Some people, however, chided me..saying yesterday, the day before, last year was the time for that conversation. I agree with those well-intentioned Facebook friends of mine. I only wonder if they will now join me in that conversation.
Four days after the Tuscon shootings, I penned an op-ed that was published in the Portland Press Herald. I got lots of supportive feedback and some nice comments for my willingness to speak publicly about my own mental health issues and how those issues affect each and every one of us, but we all moved on to more important things . . . like arguing about Rick Santorum, Wal-Mart and Honey Boo-boo.
On July 23, I wrote another blog post about the peril of ignoring mental health issues and focusing on gun control in response to the movie theater shootings in Aurora, Colorado. But we quickly moved on . . .
As I struggle to find light in this time of darkness, there is only one small measure of comfort: for the first time, I am seeing and hearing numerous people address mental health as one of the core issues for that conversation. More people, it seems, are ready to have “that” conversation.
But it is not the only issue we must be willing to confront. I consider myself an ardent supporter of the Second Amendment, but today I am left with questions for which there seem to be no easy or convenient answers. I loathe knee-jerk reactions, but I am willing to reconsider all of my opinions so that I can join that larger conversation in a meaningful and productive way.
Ironically. as we all began dealing with the tragic fallout from yesterday’s rampage, another new story from half way across the globe was unfolding.
Questions about China’s inadequate mental health system are increasing in the wake of multiple incidents of school children being attacked and killed by knife-wielding, mentally ill people. Over the last few years, numerous school children have been killed and scores more injured by knife-wielding mad men.
That is not an argument against gun control. That is an argument that shows gun control is not the entire solution.
News commentator Bob Costas didn’t hesitate to offer his opinion about gun control less than 24 hours after an NFL player shot and killed his girlfriend before shooting himself in front of his coach. Just one week later, another NFL player was killed because he was riding in a car with a drunken teammate. It’s no surprise that there was no call for tighter alcohol controls.
Railing for gun control may help us feel a bit safer; but if we don’t have that conversation across a larger context then we can expect more of the same . . . senseless violence that shocks and angers, but then slowly fades away into distant memory.
On a final point. How do we ensure better background checks to prevent mentally ill people from purchasing or obtaining firearms?
Should someone like me, someone who struggles with depression and has been hospitalized sacrifice our privacy and have our health care records disclosed? Should family members of mentally ill people lose or sacrifice some of their rights under the Constitution?
I do not know the answers to those questions. But I do know, there is no way to guarantee safety. We live in a dangerous world, and if we are willing to sacrifice liberty for security (and considering the Patriot Act, Department of Homeland Security, and long shoeless TSA lines, we are) we may end up with something we never bargained for.
The letter I wrote to President Barack Obama on November 7, 2012:
Dear Mr. President:
First and foremost, please allow me to extend my most sincere congratulations on your hard-fought victory for a second term as our nation’s president.
Before I proceed further, I think it is appropriate that I disclose I did not vote for you, either in 2008 or yesterday. That said, I respect your office and believe you are a decent man who is committed to moving our nation forward to a better future.
In essence, Mr. President, I believe you now have a rare opportunity with a second term. You have been unshackled from the constraints of re-election concerns, and I am hoping you will at least consider some of my points.
Although I applaud your efforts to tackle the complexities of our nation’s health care system, I have deep reservations about the individual mandate portion of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. I encourage you to consider pushing for the so-called “public option” as an enhancement to your signature piece of legislation.
Why would a Republican urge you to consider a public option? Because I believe that we must continue looking at innovative ways to contain skyrocketing costs and improve quality of care. As it stands, I see this legislation as a giant gift to the same industry that created the “health insurance” nightmare. A public option would, at least, provide us with the comfort that our government mandates health coverage but not payment to a myopic, for-profit industry.
Yes, I understand the limitations of public policy development, and I can appreciate the value of sincere compromise. But I believe a public option would require private insurance companies to remain competitive instead of giving them a giant gift of additional revenue sources.
Secondly, I would like to see you tackle the immigration issue with the same clarity and conviction you displayed two years ago in your fight to repair our nation’s health care system. I would favor a system that rewards hard-working people who wish to become citizens of our great nation without tolerating those who intentionally attempt to elude the system.
Certainly, we have the technology and means to streamline the naturalization process, and we should be encouraging and welcoming more people to participate in our system of government rather than focusing so much of our time and financial resources in pursuit of a punitive process that yields so few benefits.
Finally, I hope that you and your administration will focus more of your efforts on our sluggish economy and our crushing national debt. We all know that too many Americans are in deep despair and facing serious and significant financial hardships. I urge you to be mindful of these implications as you consider each and every policy initiative that comes across
A few months before I was born, President Kennedy urged his fellow citizens to ask themselves what they could do for their country, not what their country could do for them.
I want you to know, Mr. President, that I stand ready to accept that challenge; to further commit myself to working with my neighbors and all fellow citizens for the betterment of our nation. I reject the idea of living in fear and constant anxiety about an uncertain future. I stand ready and able to help you and every other American who is willing to work on behalf of our country.
Although I will continue to criticize some of your ideas and policies, please rest assured that I will also stand shoulder-to-shoulder with you at all other times.
I sincerely hope that you are able to receive my words as they are intended, and I hope that this correspondence finds you, the First Lady and your two beautiful daughters safe and content.
In numerous conversations this evening with city election clerks and poll workers, I heard repeated stories about record voter turnout and incredible same-day voter registration statistics among UNE students.
It’s nice to see our nation’s young people get involved in politics, I only wish they actually cared a bit more about the community that serves as their temporary home.
Why do I say this? Why am I so callous?
Well, maybe it’s because I think college students, especially, ought to be a bit more “educated” on issues of national, state and local importance. Our nation’s college students represent our future. They are the up and coming leaders of tomorrow, but apparently can’t be bothered to invest a small measure of time in their host community.
How do I know this? Just look at the 2012 Election Results.
Even with a perfunctory review of the numbers, it becomes quickly apparent that the students cared about only two issues: the presidential election and a statewide referendum question regarding marriage equality.
UNE is located in Biddeford’s Ward One, the predominantly coastal and more affluent section of the city.
In Ward One, 1,445 voters cast ballots regarding Marriage Equality, not including 59 blank ballots.
In Ward One, 1,496 voters cast ballots to choose the next president, not including 8 blanks.
But what happened when these voters were asked about who should be their state representative in the Maine Legislature?
Hmmm…. there were 97 blank ballots
How about the Maine Senate? 173 blanks
How about Local Bond Questions regarding road pavements? 228 blanks
How about the local school budget? 138 blanks.
Ok, so maybe most voters don’t drill down that far…but let’s compare the number of blanks on those election issues against some other neighborhoods in the same city, like my neighborhood…
State Senate: 72 blanks (a difference of 99 fewer blank votes compared to Ward One)
Paving Bond: 143 blanks (a difference of 85 fewer blank votes)
Local School Budget: 69 blanks (a difference of 99 fewer blank votes)
Across the board, Ward One had a higher number of blank ballots than any of the city’s other six voting wards (both in actual numbers and as a percent of totals)
For better or worse, Biddeford Mayor Alan Casavant is also serving as a representative in the Maine House of Representatives. He is a Democrat. He lost by a margin of just 8 votes to his Republican challenger. Wow…what if just a few more students had cast a vote in that race???
Many of the students, including a young woman from the neighboring town of Kennebunk, used only their UNE student ID as a means of proving residency in Biddeford. But they did have to swear an oath to certify that they had not voted anywhere else.
Out of curiosity, how is it that college students who can wait in line 36 hours for the latest I-Phone or score coveted Dave Matthews concert tickets months before a scheduled concert not be able to register for voting until the actual day of the election?
Nah, it couldn’t be they want to wait until the last possible minute in order to avoid scrutiny. They really do care what’s happening in the world. They just forgot that Election Day was creeping up on them.
Maybe we should require you to register to vote when you buy an I-Phone or some concert tickets. Wouldn’t that be convenient? Then they would not have to rent so many passenger vans to vote. Then they would not have to put such a strain on our strapped city resources. Then, maybe these educated kids might be able to fill out the entire ballot.
You may call me a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.