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Published: 6/22/2013

COMMENTARY

Stop and watch what’s happening in state, nation, world

BY MARILOU JOHANEK
BLADE COLUMNIST

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” I love this quote from the 1986 movie comedy Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

I relate to Ferris and his epic adventures playing hooky. But today, I might interpret his line differently.

Taking a day off to decompress, while enormously appealing, may have drawbacks in 2013. Current events can move at warp speed.

If you don’t stop once in a while to learn what you need to know about what’s happening around you, in your state and in your nation, you could miss a lot. That’s what abusers of power count on.

They’ve grown incredibly bold over the years, confident that the public is oblivious to their schemes. On the whole, they’re right.

Ordinary Americans spend their waking hours, like zoned-out hamsters on an exercise wheel, with heads down, ignoring what doesn’t directly concern them. Some of us multitask, never stopping to catch up on important events that affect life in the 21st century.

Sure, we should stay on top of what’s happening around the block or around the world, but there aren’t enough hours in a day. Who has the time or energy to stay informed about all the developing issues that are vying for attention?

So we hear about harebrained laws after they’re enacted, or about narrow partisan agendas after they’re imposed. The news is momentarily distressing, but our collective indifference quickly settles in.

Be honest. How closely do you follow what’s being debated by your local government that could affect your home, your neighborhood, your safety?

Do you have any idea what Statehouse priorities are advancing in Columbus? Too many of us only find out what state lawmakers are doing when it’s a done deal.

Before you know it, the General Assembly may be sending a budget to the governor that excludes a Medicaid expansion, cuts business taxes without offsetting the cost, fails to restore previous funding cuts to education, nixes higher severance taxes on oil and gas drillers who expect to make a fortune from fracking, and effectively defunds Planned Parenthood in Ohio.

It’s no secret the GOP wants to get rid of Planned Parenthood. Ohio Republicans are pushing party ideology because they have the votes to do so.

House and Senate budget negotiators are positioned to pass a budget that not only reprioritizes federal dollars for family planning — putting health-care agencies such as Planned Parenthood at the back of the line — but also makes it harder for abortion clinics to get the medical agreements they need with hospitals to operate.

The goal is to put Planned Parenthood out of business, regardless of the ramifications to thousands of Ohio women who depend on access to the agency for health care. That development may have gone unnoticed by Ohioans who are preoccupied with other issues, such as coping with price spikes at gasoline pumps.

It’s hard to ignore gas prices that flirt with $4 a gallon, even as U.S. oil production exceeds oil import levels for the first time in 16 years. Go figure.

Equally close to home, and difficult to overlook, is the leaked bombshell about Big Brother snooping on millions of our private phone calls. The monumental surveillance conducted by our government, ostensibly for the greater good, bothered many otherwise distracted Americans.

Evidently, they forgot about all the civil liberties they willingly gave away after the 9/​11 attacks. Back then, we couldn’t move fast enough to shred the Fourth Amendment to fight a nebulous enemy bent on terrorism.

But we never agreed to the flagrant abuse of power demonstrated last year by the Internal Revenue Service, which took the liberty of targeting conservative groups for intense tax-code scrutiny. And we never imagined a scandal gripping the Armed Forces over widespread sexual assault in the ranks without deliverance of swift and decisive justice.

We never sanctioned more military intervention in the Middle East. Yet our commander in chief is straying into Syria’s bloody civil war by arming a rebel contingent that includes elements of al-Qaeda.

See what you could miss if you don’t stop and look around?

Marilou Johanek is a columnist for The Blade.

Contact her at: mjohanek@theblade.com



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