On the Loss of Common Spaces in a Politicized World

Among the losses in our declining culture is that of “common” or shared spaces and events. In these situations, Americans could come together and enjoy some degree of unity and common purpose. Usually they involved diversions like sports, movies, or other entertaining and uniting activities. Whatever political, religious, or cultural differences, Americans could set aside their differences and enjoy something together.

  1. Sporting events, amateur and professional (e.g., local high school football games, March Madness, the Super Bowl, the World Series)
  2. Blockbuster movies or television shows (e.g., Jaws, the final episode of M*A*S*H)
  3. Awards ceremonies (e.g., the Oscars, the Emmys, the Grammys)
  4. Amusement parks (e.g., Disneyland, Epcot Center, Six Flags)
  5. Parades (e.g., St. Patrick’s Day, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving Day)

These were times when people left their politics behind and enjoyed things common to everyone. Here in Washington, D.C., political divisions could run deep, but come Sunday the stadium was filled with united Redskin’s fans, especially when we played Dallas. Even if some rooted for “the other team,” it was all in good fun. Fans of things like Star Wars and Star Trek might be in different political parties, but they could enjoy talking about their favorite characters and episodes. On July 4th, it was great to be an American regardless of which political party we favored; there were parades, fireworks, and the reading of the Declaration of Independence. We could visit the Disney of more innocent times and watch the Main Street Electrical Parade, shoulder-to-shoulder with people of all shape, sizes, colors, and beliefs.

These and others were common or shared spaces where we could all have a good time and forget our troubles and divisions, even if only briefly.

Such spaces and occasions are disappearing, one by one. Everything these days is being politicized. In the football world, the latest kerfuffle over our National Anthem (another thing that used to unite us) is only the latest in a series of attempts by players, owners, and sports networks to inject politics into the game. Football players and coaches are lecturing to us; sports anchors opine, the PC crowd pores over Super Bowl commercials looking for any sign of offense, the Super Bowl halftime shows reek of the sexual revolution. Blech!

Actors, actresses, and singers wag their fingers at us, issuing political speeches and injecting social commentary at the Grammys, Oscars, and Emmys. Do we really care what some celebrity’s political stance is? Do we need to hear how much they like the sexual revolution? Must they weigh in on the latest cause célèbre? Even the opening monologue is some sort of tirade against someone or an opinionated lecture delivered in the bubble of a like-minded crowd who seem to have little understanding of how condescending it all sounds. Gone are the days of good old-fashioned movies that entertained and/or elevated us. Everything has to have a message—usually an attack on traditional values or a foray into our political divisions. This was the very thing we once turned to entertainment to escape.

Victor Borge once said, “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.” But today even comedy has been infected with politics and the hypersensitivity of political correctness. What makes things funny is how they often stereotypically capture a truth. Yes, it is exaggerated. Yes, it pokes a little fun. Yes, it plays to expectations, though sometimes with a surprising twist. Today we’re not “allowed” to laugh at much of anything. We’ve become so thin-skinned that we’ve lost the ability to laugh at ourselves. Comedy has also become rife with sexual banter that makes it R-rated, and one-sided attacks that reflect its politicization.

Columnist Ben Shapiro has this to say:

America needs to take a breath from politics every so often. Football is one of those breaths.

Hollywood and pop culture would do well to remind themselves that if they don’t want to alienate half their audience and exacerbate our differences, they can allow us room to breathe. The Super Bowl [once] did that … So much for that rosy notion. The NFL has become ground zero for the culture wars. Which means that we can’t see movies anymore, watch TV shows anymore, or even watch sports anymore without feeling that we’re being judged. That means our common spaces are disappearing. And we have so little political common space already that cultural common space was our last relic of togetherness.

Here’s the bottom line: this conflict isn’t good for the country. We need our shared symbols, and we need our shared spaces. Both of those elements are being destroyed for political and ratings gain. If that doesn’t stop, we’re not going to have anything at all in common anymore [Ben Shapiro, writing in “The Daily Wire”].

While this issue is not a Christian one per se — it is a wider cultural one — Pope Benedict XVI diagnosed its deeper roots when he spoke of the “tyranny of relativism.” Relativism is a form of subjectivism which shifts the locus of truth and reality from the object to the subject. Because subjects (people) differ in their perceptions, the truth is then claimed to be relative. This leads to tyranny, however, because when we can no longer point to reality and reason to make our point, we are left with shouting and pressuring. Who wins when reason and reality itself are jettisoned? Those with the most money, power, and influence; those who are loudest; those who are fiercest; those who are willing to go to extremes to force their opinion. When reason and God’s reality are thrust aside, the loud, the powerful, the arrogant, and the extreme get their way.

Amusement parks, movies, parades, and even the gridiron cannot withstand the politicization; it is forcing its way onto the field and into everything. Common spaces are fewer than ever; everything today is a bitter dispute. Blech!

Here’s a video from another world, long ago.


3 Replies to “On the Loss of Common Spaces in a Politicized World”

  1. You are so right Father, but you sound somewhat surprised by your statements, this has been occurring for a very long time. I admire you very much, but please don’t tell me what I have seen and been aware of for years,,,,instruct me on how to relate/perceive/comprehend what I need to do, and to listen to our Lords advice when it comes to our current situation, so as to keep from despair but to focus on my faith and hope. Thank you.

  2. Amazing film of Disneyland in the fifties. My only visit was 1957, and was just like the movie.

    The Gramscian Left’s “March Through The Institutions” has left very title untouched and unpolluted. Alas.

  3. Amen.I haven’t been able to watch award shows, certain TV shows and movies for years. They preach more than the Catholic Church does with their “liberal” agenda. One people are totally unaware of is Disney kids movies which have had agendas for years. I was made aware of this by the Catholic Deacon Gregy Greydanus who does a great job warning people of all movies but especially Disney and Pixar movies. One example is the Disney movie “Moana” which my grandson loves including the songs. One song I am glad he doesn’t know the words to “the UR welcome song” which even my daughter didn’t get the words. I listened to it on Youtube a couple of weeks ago. Moana is a Hawaiian diety in the movie (don’t know if he is real). He is trying to educate this young girl about all he has done for them ie “i gave you the sun and the sky, ur welcome”, the sea and etc.. ur welcome. The most outrageous hidden line is :No need to pray, it’s okay, ur welcome! I about fainted, I couldn’t believe it. I brought it up to my daughter and although they saw the movie many times since the kids love it she never heard it. I suggested when they do learn the words to change that line to “always need to pray, thanks be to God” or something like that. They are brainwashing kids against religion, against parents in many movies, the feminist agenda in others and of course climate change and people are bad for the environment but animals are good. I get angry they are trying to influence our children. Walt would never do that, he was an entertainer. Sorry but I am so fed up. I would like them to shut up and act, or play football etc and voice their opinion the way the rest of us our limited to – the voting booth, boycotts etc. We get no public platform yet we are all equal and we don’t make $25 million for a movie. They are dividing more and turning away people. Thanks for writing this column. You are my go to priest for truth and common sense.

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