Too Busy?

8 months ago | Oct 11, 2018
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We at CEP are actively engaging the community about the importance of voting. Our Board Members are genuinely involved in getting this message out. Current Board Member, Craig Yorke, wrote a Letter to the Editor of the Topeka Capital-Journal. Craig touches on the various things that keep us away from the polls. We hope you’re not too busy to read his letter, but ALWAYS make time to vote!

”Democracy doesn’t maintain itself - and it has never been a spectator sport (Yorke).”

There is still time to register to vote!

                                                      Too Busy?                                                        

by Craig Yorke

We Americans are busy - busy making ends meet, busy on our phones, busy raising the next generation. Polls say our nation’s headed in the wrong direction but most of us won’t vote in November. Instead, we’ll be attending to the breaking news of our lives. Attention is the currency of our shrinking world. After all, we’re admonished to "pay” attention. But distraction is relentless. Our eyes are pulled to the urgent - and the urgent is seldom truly important.

Money, we’ve learned, is important. And we know that 80% of 2017’s stock market gains went to the richest 1% of Americans. We understand that being created equal shouldn’t entitle us to equal success, that America’s playing field will always be tilted. But over the last 30 years its slope has become spectacularly steep. Income inequality has hardened across generations to spawn wildly unequal opportunity. Our kids’ futures are best predicted by their zip codes. Concentrated money screens candidates long before ballots are printed. It buys political power and makes cynics of many would be voters. Many believe their vote won't matter. Not true. Kris Kobach just won a Republican primary for governor by 350 votes - of more than 313,000 cast.

Weather is important too. And our politics have struggled to address it. We know how to identify a common enemy and confront an acute crisis. We’re good at emergencies. But climate is more difficult, feels less urgent. To address it would require unprecedented tenacity and cooperation - the work of a global tribe. And the enemy isn’t some foreign nation or alien ideology - it’s our own industrial success and the comforts we fear to lose. Fossil fuel interests spend heavily to distract us - to influence politicians and to sow doubt about climate science, reprising big tobacco’s disinformation campaign from decades ago. But as they spin, the planet heats - to our species’ disadvantage.

Weather and inequity are more important than anything you’ll see on your phone today. And they’re inescapably public. Our private sector’s dynamism and creativity are astonishing, but its business plans aren’t built to address such long term policy issues. These challenges are political, in that word’s best sense. Politicians didn’t create them, of course. It’s been a globalized industrial revolution has allowed humans to thrive - and has put our democracy at risk. But the politics of health care, housing and education aggravate inequity. Tax and energy policy turbocharge climate disruption. Our age is madly gilded - and history teaches that such times seldom end gracefully. We’re constantly distracted by distraction, pushed to anger and despair. But. We can still wake up and remember that who leads us matters.

We primates are tribal. We’re hardwired to join, to belong and to exclude, but our sense of tribal identity isn’t fixed. In just a few thousand years the member of the hunting clan has become a citizen of a nation state. We could confront climate and inequity by further expanding tribal membership - a heavy lift. But we might as easily aim to suppress our political opponents and allow our experiment in self government to wither. It’s our choice. Democracy doesn’t maintain itself - and it has never been a spectator sport.

We Americans are a particularly young and motley tribe, founded in the Enlightenment and held together by ideas. Our rivals like China and Russia cohere by blood and force. Their founding ideologies have resonated poorly around the globe. They don’t need walls to exclude ambitious and gifted immigrants. And their weaponry threatens us far less than our own ignorance and decadence. The future is ours to grasp or squander. We could pay that future the attention it warrants. We could vote. Unless we’re too busy.

Craig Yorke is a retired Neurosurgeon and has lived with his wife, Mary, in Topeka since 1980.  They have two adult sons. He holds a B.A. and M.D. from Harvard University. Since leaving the O.R. in 2003, he has worked as an advisor in state government and has seen outpatients in a variety of settings.  He served on the founding board of the Kansas Children's Discovery Center as well as the boards of the Topeka Community Foundation and the Sunflower Music Festival. He's interested in links between climate and health and hopes to promote the value of solar energy in Kansas.  He's an avid tennis player and violinist.