Welcome to the Circus

Jennifer Graham
3 min readApr 22, 2022

Shiny Distractions from Real Issues

Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash

It’s been a strange couple of weeks as the GOP in Florida waged a full war with…wait for it…Disney? Disney halfheartedly denounced the new bill in Florida deemed “Don’t Say Gay”, as they felt it was harmful to LGBTQ kids. The denouncement was pretty mild, as Disney knows it has a tremendous amount of support from both sides of the aisle. But it was enough to stir up the hornets’ nest, and Governor Ron DeSantis went on the offensive to attack Disney. He even signed a bill dissolving Disney’s private government status that had been in place since the 1960s.

In other GOP circles, people went so far as to call Disney “pedophiles”, “groomers”, and “communists”. Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who never misses an opportunity to get on TV, said that Disney was going to show kids programming with “Mickey and Pluto going at it”. That is…weird? What is Senator Cruz watching exactly? I can say with confidence as a Gen X-er, I’ve never seen anything untoward with Mickey or any of the other beloved characters I grew up watching. But that isn’t really the point, is it?

No. The point is to create mayhem. The GOP has brought the circus to towns across the United States, and they want us to embrace the culture war distractions. CRT. Groomers. Book banning. Mask wars. Woke agenda. These are all shiny objects to enrage voters. They clearly believe an enraged base is an engaged base.

But the real issue here is that most Americans don’t care about this stuff. They care about kitchen tables issues like infrastructure and inflation. They care that their grocery bill is higher this month than last month. They care about the health and well-being of their families. They care that the planet seems to be sagging under the weight of the immense pressure we place on it. By distracting us with shiny objects, the GOP is revealing something: they don’t have a plan for any of these real issues.

When cornered, they don’t have answers to how we make the average American’s life better. That’s because, at the heart of it all, they don’t really care all that much. So, what do they do to stay in power? They divide us along every line they can think of: race, gender, sexuality, geography. The list goes on and on. They want us to feel like we don’t have anything in common. They know that if we see people who aren’t like us as enemies, we can never see them as the problem.

It’s a powerful strategy, and it often works because humans are predictable. They want to belong. They like an “us vs. them” story because it makes them feel included. That’s where the culture wars are perfect because they reinforce that these other people? They aren’t like you. You are a good American. They aren’t. And they want to take that away from you. Vote for us so they can’t do that.

What I hope we see is that we are far more alike than we are different. We all care about the future. We all just want to live in this world. The issues that we all care about resonate because they are universal. At their core, these issues are about carving out a little space in this world for ourselves where we feel happy and safe.

Don’t let the shiny objects be a distraction. No, Mickey is not trying to groom kids. No, the local librarian isn’t either. No, teachers are not the problem. These issues serve to divide us further. Let’s remember our humanity and what we really need and try to get there together. Ignore the circus; it’s all mirrors and no substance anyway.

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