If You’re a Human, You’re Political.

I once saw someone complain about Captain America being "too political." Uh, he was created by Jewish kids before World War II to make a statement against Hitler. He was literally created as a political act.

I once saw someone complain about Captain America being “too political.” Uh, he was created by Jewish kids before World War II to make a statement against Hitler. He was literally created as a political act.

Barry Petchetsky at Deadspin reports that sportscaster Adam Schefter was asked if politics belongs in sports reporting. Here’s part of his response:

No. Politics is not a normal day-to-day topic of discussion and reporting. It does not impact how we go about our jobs. Sports figures who publicize their political viewpoints only serve to divide the audience. People are drawn to sports as an escape from politics.

Petchetsky dismantles Schefter’s argument beautifully, pointing out that most of the major sports stories that Schefter has commented on are in some way or another political in nature, including stories about labor, the high cost of universities, and the Orlando shooting. Petchetsky concludes, “the truly baffling part here is that Schefter (and so many like him) don’t see anything political about this stuff. The only way to cover sports without introducing politics is to cover it dishonestly.”

I highlight this post for two reasons. First, it’s wonderfully written and well-argued. Second, it’s true for everyone. Everything is political. Yes, that “brainless” movie you just watched at the multiplex was political — if you didn’t detect an agenda, it very likely reinforced gender norms, political opinions, and other underlying societal premises. Politics is how we as humans navigate conflicts and other societal debates. Politics are hardwired into our brains and our lives. Avoiding politics would be like avoiding air, or avoiding sunlight.

It has been said many times before, but it always deserves repeating because people like Schefter never seem to learn: being apolitical is a thoroughly political position. If you decide not to see the political nature of things, or if you decide not to live in the world as a political person, you are ceding the conversation to literally anyone else.

One of the most common reasons why people complain about sports and movies getting “too political” is because they disagree with the statement being expressed. If you voice your opinion but you expect others (artists, sports stars, newscasters) to keep silent — well, that’s a political opinion, too, and a bad one. We need more discourse, not less, in the public space. This belief that political conversations are impolite is practically Victorian, and it silences important voices.

I get it. These conversations are uncomfortable. They force you to think about things you may not want to think about. Sometimes they lead to arguments, and those are never easy. But ignoring these conversations, or pretending they don’t exist, is a fool’s errand, like promoting abstinence-only education to teenagers and then being shocked when the teen birth rate soars. The rise of a liar like Donald Trump, someone who promotes an impossible agenda while employing dangerous rhetoric, is a direct result of a politically illiterate culture like the one Schefter encourages.

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Paul Constant
Paul Constant has written about politics, books, and film for Newsweek, The Progressive, the Utne Reader, and alternative weeklies around the country.