Many-a-gallon of ink has been spilled trying to figure out just what the American people want, and why they increasingly — on both the left and the right — are rejecting politicians and embracing less polished leaders. Anti-politicians, if you will.
You can spend a lot of time trying to figure it out, and you might end up driving yourself mad. Is it that our leaders have failed us? That their policies are out of alignment with the general public’s beliefs? New political power in the hands of everyday people because of technology?
All fair guesses. But all of those things have been repeatedly present through American history, and it hasn’t resulted in what we have seen in the last decade.
My theory, and I think I’m right about it, is that it is a symptom of big changes in modern life and our increasing desire to seek authenticity.
You see, so much of what we encounter in 2016 is fake. This really struck me Sunday as I watched the NFL playoff game between the Vikings and the Seahawks.
Stick with me on this one.
I sat there watching the game, which was among the most brutally cold in NFL playoff history, and some things struck me. The cold breath in the air. The frigid look of the players. The sunlight kissing the field, silently taunting those poor souls thrust into competition. The fans taking pride in suffering through the conditions they have to experience to support their team.
This was football, I said. The only thing missing was real grass, and the muddy, chewed up field that you used to see so often in games like this.
You see, to me, football was meant to be played in this way. Outside, in brutal weather, on real grass, with players experiencing the real touch of the violent game they are playing.
Cold. Rain. Snow. Mud. Pain. Blood. Filthy uniforms. Scuffed helmets. This is football.
That was what I watched in the 1980s and 1990s as I grew up, and I know it is what people who are older than me watched. Sure, occasionally you might have a team, like the Saints, that was in a dome, or you might have a field here or there covered in that awful astroturf. But the game was played outside, in the elements, on grass, and complete with the grime of grass stains, dirt and filth.
That is not the NFL any longer. What do we see everywhere today? Temperature-controlled domes. Artificial grass. No dirt on the field anywhere. Perfect, untouched uniforms.
This is today’s NFL, and it has no soul.
The move toward controlled, synthetic, artificially perfect environments has robbed the sport of its humanity and grit. The violence remains, but almost no signs of the consequences of it.
Now, as though created in a cold, sterile laboratory, or the static environment of a computer animation studio, the NFL looks like some kind of video game, devoid of richness. It is no longer authentic.
Pro football was once, to me, the realest and most authentic sport, accessible to all classes of man, the ultimate expression of grit, determination, and fiery competition. To play was to bare your soul, unafraid of looking unkempt in favor of fighting in the trenches for respect and glory.
But stripped of all of that, we are left with the antiseptic, bland, awful leftovers: millionaires playing an increasingly technical, soulless game of replay football in bright white uniforms on fake grass and frequently in temperature-controlled, indoor stadiums.
And devoid of that blue-collar grit, my interest has waned, and even though I still enjoy it, so much of the joy is gone as I watch what is essentially a corporate shell of what it once was.
The same is true of movies. The ease of computer graphics technology has unleashed a wave of creativity on writers and directors in Hollywood, but it has also had a numbing effect on the viewer. Movies designed in computers and with actors standing in front of green screens simply do not look like they would on a real set location. As a result, it doesn’t really look that authentic and real. We can detect that, no matter how subtle.
Everywhere we look in our lives today, authenticity has been robbed of us. Sports. Entertainment. Social media has replaced real human interaction with synthetic interactions. We crave the real, and we aren’t getting it.
So why would politics be any different?