Sam Olens, Georgia’s attorney general, mentioned something Thursday that’s stuck with me.
He was in Albany and carved out some time in his schedule to talk with the newspaper’s editorial board about various issues going on around the state. It was a conversation that was decidedly unpoliticiany, if that’s a word. If not, it should be. We started out on some more pleasant subjects — I got a lead on a good Italian restaurant in the Atlanta area I was unfamiliar with — before we went into the sorts of topics you’d expect to come up.
We went over the Affordable Care Act, its potential impact on Georgians; the Florida governor’s threat to file a new suit against Georgia over water flow from our river systems; work that his office, Georgia law enforcement and federal officials are doing to stop the sex trafficking of young women and girls; ways to get newly-released state prisoners back on a productive path, and whether movements to change voter I.D. and stand-your-ground laws might have impact in our state.
It was after that last topic on self-defense — Olens noted that the stand-your-ground law wasn’t used by George Zimmerman in his defense — that the attorney general suggested that some who are pushing the Cause of the Day “love to be involved in hyperbole instead of governance.”
“I wish,” he said, “that we spent as much energy on what do we have to do for our youth to get our communities back.”
The real issue isn’t whether you have to show a driver’s license or I.D. card to vote or whether you believe in a stand-your-ground law. The issue that is most critical is the one that is ignored.
“How did the crime occur in the first place?” he asked. “That’s the question we need to ask. We spend all this time on stuff that’s not material.”
That’s not what makes the national headlines and news these days. People aren’t asking how a 17-year-old De’Marquise Elkins in Brunswick could be so cold and heartless that he would shoot and kill a 13-month-old baby, Antonio Santiago, last March because Antonio’s mother, Sherry West, didn’t have any money for him and his 15-year-old accomplice to steal during an armed robbery. People aren’t asking en masse how Elkins, now 18 and sentenced to life in prison without parole, could shoot the mother in the leg as she tried to shield her baby, and then fire a bullet between the infant’s eyes.
How could life become so insignificant to that teenager? How could a life be that insignificant to anyone?
No, Americans are more worried about what Kim Kardashian’s going to name her baby. Or who Miley Cyrus will twerk — which now is officially a word when a perfectly good one like unpoliticiany is not — at the next music awards. And we swell with passion and indignation, flooding websites with caustic remarks and signing online petitions because movie makers have the audacity to cast Ben Affleck as Batman.
Those seem to be the priorities these days.
One thing you hear politicians on both sides of the aisles talk about is getting America back somewhere … on track, to work, to whatever the Cause of the Day is. Usually, of the course, the best way is completely in line with the pontificating politico’s personal preferences as far as issues and ideology.
But what it boils down to is getting the kids when they’re still kids and making a difference, showing them a path that leads to prosperity instead of gunplay, prison and someone’s death, particularly a baby. And that’s not a Red thing or a Blue thing — it’s a red, white and blue concern, one that starts at home and in the classroom.
“It’s not a Republican issue or a Democratic issue for you to want your kid to get a good education,” Olens said. “Everybody wants what’s best for their children. The question is, are we providing it from an opportunity standpoint?”
It’s a tough question because if you give it serious consideration, you’re not going to like the answer. It’s much easier to find someone you agree with politically, label those who disagree with you as “them” and conclude that the problem is “them.” Or you can avoid worrying about it altogether by getting lost in an episode of “Honey Boo Boo” or some other televised tripe that is, when you think about it, really an insult to tripe when you make that comparison.
But it’s a question we better start asking ourselves.
Email Jim Hendricks at firstname.lastname@example.org.