The Dramatic States of America

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Whether you’re a parent, teacher, coach, or youth minister, if you’ve had a lot of dealings with teenagers, then you know that teens are given to drama.

Now, I mean no slight to the young people out there. There are plenty of solid teens with good heads on their shoulders, but, by and large, most adolescents do tend toward the more emotional side of the scale during that phase of their lives.

And by the time they reach the teen years, most kids have learned that emotional outbursts can sometimes be used against adults as a kind of extortion – a way to get what they want or to sway adults into taking their side in an argument.

When faced with teen drama, it’s important for level-headed adult authority figures to first get things settled down, and then, when the emotional temperature has been lowered, calmly and rationally address whatever problems or grievances sparked off all the drama in the first place.

But when the adults in the room actually start joining in and amplifying the drama – well, that’s a sure-fire recipe for chaos and disaster.

Imagine a high school where one group of kids gets into a heated dispute with another group of kids, and instead of stepping in and trying to bring the situation under control, the teachers and school administrators actually start taking sides in the argument, get all worked up and angry, and even outdo the kids when it comes to extreme language and childish behavior, all the while trying to bring the whole student body and even their parents into the fray.

Now take that nightmare scenario, super-size it to a national level, and you’d get a pretty good analogy for what’s going on these days in America.

With most of the country stressed out from over a year in pandemic mode, millions of people experiencing economic hardship, probably the most politically divided state of affairs since the Civil War, a historic wave of civil and racial unrest and a record surge of violent crime following in its wake – with all that, you would think our nation’s leaders and elites would actually be putting forth some effort to try to cool things down.

But just the opposite seems to be the case. Too many of our elected officials, at least half of the talking heads in the national media, many professional athletes and Hollywood elites, and a lot of our biggest corporations seem to be intentionally trying to turn up the heat.

Now, I’m not entirely sure why that is – if they’ve just completely given themselves over to unfettered emotion, losing all sense of moderation and proportion, or if there are underlying motives and strategies behind all this – but I’m starting to have my suspicions.

History contains more than a few examples of chaotic times being exploited to advance political agendas. And if you’re going for radical, fundamental change, such times as these – when people are distracted, angry, scared, and confused – are the best windows of opportunity. And if pushing through radical change is at the top of your to-do list, then the last thing you want is for people to calm down and for cooler heads to prevail.

I also find it interesting that when the people in charge actually do propose solutions, those solutions always seem to involve giving them more power and control (and, of course, more of our money) – and the kind of adolescent emotional extortion I described earlier is often employed to gain our consent (or submission).

But regardless of the real reasons behind all this, I think regular, working-stiff Americans would be wise to just assume that politicians, media figures, cultural elites, and corporate leaders are stoking the flames of drama and division in this country – not because of high ideals or for the ultimate good of the nation or the planet – but because it serves their own interests.

And it might not be a bad idea to send all the biggest drama queens and kings (on both sides of the aisle) packing when the next election cycle rolls around.

At this point in the game, I think that if anyone is actually going to step up and act as the adults in the room, it’s going to have to be average, ordinary Americans. This country’s political, media, and corporate elites are just too invested in the drama.

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