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Monday, May 23, 2016

The Big Thing

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Understanding what really matters

There’s an old saying, “Tell me to what you pay attention and I will tell you who you are.” So, who are you? Who are we, I mean, as a country?

We pay attention to what Miley Cyrus twerks, what Jay-Z and Beyonce say, and a hundred other insignificant matters, but fewer than half of all Americans know that there are three branches of government, or can even name them. We obsess over an American dentist who shot a lion named Cecil in Zimbabwe and a bison calf that had to be euthanized in Yellowstone National Park, but don’t even give more than a glancing look at the almost one million abortions that are performed every year in our country – even with organizations like Planned Parenthood chopping up and selling baby body parts, like a poultry processor, and yet a majority of Americans still view Planned Parenthood favorably and want the federal government funding for them to continue.

Are you kidding me? But I get it, in a way, though. It’s easy to get spread out too thin, and get distracted from what’s most important. And sometimes the urgent in our life wins out over the important.

Like how too many in our country are obsessed with making it more acceptable, and accessible, for grown men to go to the restroom alongside our aging mothers and young daughters. The media and Washington, D.C. crowd choose to focus more on the 0.3 percent of the population in our country that could be uncomfortable going into the restroom of their natural, physical gender, even though there are 40 million more of our young daughters (who are under 18) that may now feel uncomfortable themselves going into the restroom, as a result.

But what about getting uncomfortable about the senseless killings in our communities? Or generational poverty, or rising incarceration rates? What about becoming uncomfortable with rising unemployment, or a generation of Americans growing up without fathers, or the risk of terrorism here at home?

Bottom line, you can’t do big things if you don’t know what the big things are in the first place, and you can’t know what those big things are if you’re distracted by all the small things. It’s a bit of a chickenin-the-egg situation, here.

It’s like when President Kennedy told Congress in 1961, “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.”

That was a “big thing,” and with that vision, Kennedy directed the attention of a country toward what was important, and mobilized the best and brightest our country had to offer, in the process. From medical imaging, to enhanced dialysis, and even the cordless vacuum – all were the result of our country’s commitment to doing a “big thing.”

What “big thing” is our country doing today? Or, are we so distracted by the insignificant that we are focused on “no thing”? If you feel we’re not doing any “big thing” in our country today, maybe it’s time we start focusing on the lack of leaders in our country, elected or otherwise, who have forgotten that leaders become great, not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others.

This is no doubt what causes too many of us to have a sense of helplessness, or to feel we have no influence on what happens in our lives. But it’s not entirely our fault. In fact, Margaret Thatcher once lamented about Great Britain that “we are governed by people who care more about feelings than they do about thoughts and ideas.”

If the same is true about America today, this cannot end well for any American, for freedom anywhere, or the legacy of so many that fought and died protecting this experiment in liberty called America.

After all, the Bible says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” But if we don’t pay attention long enough to see what really matters, and are distracted by the inconsequential instead, what other outcome can there be?

Louis R. Avallone is a Shreveport businessman and attorney. He is also a former aide to U.S. Representative Jim McCrery and editor of The Caddo Republican. His columns have appeared regularly in The Forum since 2007. Follow him on Facebook, on Twitter @louisravallone or by e-mail at louisavallone@mac.com.

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