A student checks his phone while passing over the Iowa Avenue bridge on Wednesday, April 19, 2017. The bridge was built in 1916, after replacing the Centennial Bridge, it was later updated in 1985. (The Daily Iowan/Joseph Cress)

Kumar: Divisiveness is caused by distraction

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We as a country are capable of immense change, but we are too quick to get distracted.

By Michelle Kumar

michelle-kumar@uiowa.edu

Lately, it seems like the world is ending, burning, imploding, or all three at the same time. Everywhere you look, it’s not hard to find people arguing and fighting. When you turn on the news, it seems like there is a never-ending stream of tragedy or some new protest. We have allowed ourselves to become divided over and distracted from the very issues we claim to care so much about.

Ever since the 2016 campaign trail began to heat up, we’ve known that President Trump is loose with his tweets and his words. That doesn’t always excuse what he says, but why are we still being sucked into reacting to him and each other? We know his beliefs and style, and regardless of whether we agree with them or not, why are we so shocked?

While we’re infatuated with problems that didn’t exist before, we ignore what’s happening right in front of us. While we were preoccupied with the NFL for example, the Trump administration proposed a questionable tax plan, our fellow American citizens in Puerto Rico needed help, devastating earthquakes hit Mexico, wildfires raged in the West, DACA recipients are still left without a permanent solution, and we are still on very shaky ground with North Korea.

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Don’t get me wrong; our First Amendment right to peacefully protest, especially against something so
important as racial inequality and police brutality, is very important. If you recall though, Colin Kaepernick,  and other athletes have protested for a while, and this discussion was never this huge until the president chose to call them out, coincidentally, just as unfavorable policies from and responses toward the administration began to surface.

Something I believe the president is extremely smart about is his strategy of “if you can’t change the rules, change the game and shift the focus.”

When we ignore problems that aren’t getting as much airtime as they were yesterday, we leave them unsolved. It’s just a matter of fact that there will always be something new on the news that is going to pit us against each other. Of course it’s easy to say, “Stop getting distracted,” but regardless of what side of the political line we fall on, we need to keep fighting for the issues we believe in. We can’t let the the media or the president dictate what we put our efforts toward.

In this day and age, we have made strides with our online presence. The negative side to this is how quickly information and opinions get shared. Stories are easily overpowered by each other because our attention is so easily had. It’s not hard for stories such as the NFL to blow up because there are really only two sides, and two sides make for an easier debate. Complex ideas such as race and health care are so nuanced, and we are so divided, that common ground seems impossible, and we move on.

To me, it seems that our world is not lacking in empathy or caring. We have plenty of people fighting every day for what they believe. The problem lies in the rest of us being focused on what’s trending at the moment. If our mentality doesn’t divert from that, the few that are fighting will never get anything done by themselves. Imagine how much change we could create if we didn’t get caught up in tweets.

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