Our struggle to care

The latest dour news on the state of the economy broke when the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the unemployment rate surpassed six percent. This figure represents the continuation of an eight month downward trend in employment, a 1.4 percent increase in unemployment over the past year and the highest unemployment rate since September 2003. In an election year that could turn on the economy, it is surprising just how little attention this news received. News outlets have moved on and public outcry is nonexistent. Even Wall Street has moved on; the Dow Jones opened Monday 300 points higher than it closed on Friday, as though the news was ancient. Rather than being a harbinger of the economy, this situation is emblematic of a larger phenomenon in American society today: Apathy. The inaction or indifference of those in power on the issues facing the United States today has transformed our relationship with those issues. News stories that used to attract the attention and action of the media and the public have gone from a fever pitch to a tired drone. Take the Republican National Convention protests. After four days of marching the constant âÄî albeit insistent âÄî whine of protesters affected a soporific tone, and the story that media outlets picked up was the growing number of arrests. We quietly passed 500 casualties in Afghanistan âÄî which should have been expected as that war has largely been forgotten. Meanwhile, a recent study of arctic ice has provided further evidence that global warming exists and is man-made. But few care and nothing happens. A generous analysis of our minimal reaction to these stories would say that we Americans are handling the situation stoically. The sad reality is that we may simply be too weary to do anything else. Polls show widespread dissatisfaction with the direction the country is taking, and both presidential campaigns pledge the nebulous panacea of âÄúchange.âÄù But we donâÄôt seem to care enough to pay attention and act now. Maybe Phil Gramm was on to something when he said the United States was in a mental recession.