I am desperate for an outlet devoid of politics.
I used to abhor escapism, which in my early twenties I considered an utter evasion of reality with no value. I thought of escapism as self-destructive, a means to ignore one’s problems, and a way to live in a fantasy world.
This weekend, American football kicked into full gear. Both the NFL and NCAA launched in their full glory (save the BigTen). Upon the kick off of very game, be it kneeling for the national anthem, statements made or released by teams, political commentaries by the commentators, other demonstration by the teams, or even the design of the end zone, football decided to put politics front and center of their games.
Be it by their convictions, marketing strategy, public relations, or social pressure, politics has burrowed it’s way into the very outlets that are supposed to transcend politics. Sports are universal. Even those with the most extreme, polarizing views, can put politics aside for a local sports team. Need proof, look no further than a sports bar when the local team is playing. Success is celebrated amongst all, regardless of personal politics. That’s possible because the sport itself puts politics aside for its own exhibition.
Sport is the closest thing we have to a meritocracy. Do we care that a disproportionate percentage of NFL and NBA athletes who happen to be black. We also dismiss that the last time a white sprinter won the Olympic 100m dash was forty years ago (when 66 countries boycotted the games). We don’t bother considering it because the indifference of the laws of physics is absolute. Bouncing, chasing, and aiming a ball and covering a distance at speed are measured without consideration for race, sex, or any other characteristic. If you can make 40% of 3-point shots with a 6’10” defender challenging you, or if you can cover 100 meters faster than everyone else in the field, guess what? You win. Performance is paramount.
I enjoyed watching football, especially at the highest levels. I enjoyed the chess game of strategies between the coaches, the individual match-ups, and the raw athleticism the competitors put on display. I know, respect, and admire the talent, work, and dedication it takes to perform at that level, but the primacy of politics negates any joy I found in these performances.
I recognize freedom of speech, and the leagues/players rights to expression and protest. There is no reason for them to cater to my desire. Unfortunately, protest has become unavoidable. The political conversation saturates every outlet, and I do not think it’s healthy for us as individuals or as a society. You get no break from the message. It reaches you in social media, on the streets, in nearly every podcast/radio show, books, movies, TV shows, music, schools, and, yes, sports. Anyone with any kind of popularity or fame, is pressured to use their “platform” to rebroadcast political messages. The lens of politics has been inserted into our entire view of life. I fear it’s blinding us from the joys of living. Its fog must lift. It’s clouding our vision.
There is so much more to life than politics. And I long for a day when we do not care who is in the White House because we recognize how little affect they (rightfully) have on our lives.
I am desperate for an outlet devoid of politics, so I am creating it. My next group of short stories address the issue of politics in our culture head on by ignoring it altogether. They’re set today, in the midst of the pandemic, and show, in small cases that men can live, think, and create outside the scope of our politics.