Panem et Circenses: The Hunger Games Redux

..but until then, you know and I know,
niggas will party & bullshit and party & bullshit
and party & bullshit and party & bullshit and party...
Some will even die, before the revolution comes
                                                “When the Revolution Comes”
                                                                            The Last Poets
This election season can’t end fast enough for me; between Mitt Romney’s stupidity, Donald Trump’s blatant racism and pseudo-awareness of your cousins, the run-up to November 6th has taken on a more circus-like atmosphere than ever before. Granted, social media has done wonders in raising the awareness of millions on specific issues, but it cannot be the primary source of consciousness in situations as important as a Presidential election.

The debates interrupt a constant flow of nonsense and place some of the most disorganized minds in a realm slightly above where they normally reside. I don’t have an issue with people getting involved or wanted to be attentive to the process, but you can’t just tune in on a Monday night and automatically assume the position of ghetto correspondent. Over the last month, I’ve literally seen folks go from discussing gang relations to politically astute within seconds, simply because ABC began to air coverage of the debate. Still no problem, I turn it on and off all of the time. My problem is when the debates or crucial moments in the campaign become entertainment, like watching the Cowboys and Giants play; we’ve gotten to the point where we narrow in on zingers and one-liners, missing what’s actually being talked about or more importantly, isn’t being talked about.

Panem et Circenses

Juvenal, Roman poet and satirist, used the metaphoric phrase to describe the state of Romans displaced from history and political involvement, satisfied by food and entertainment. Translated, panem et circenses means bread and circuses and in its original context refers to Roman politicians distributed wheat and circus games to citizens to gain their vote. Fast forward a few thousand years and our lives are based around bread and circuses; political involvement has taken on a tint of entertainment, only when it’s a trending topic on Twitter or in the hood. Even more, historical struggles and sacrifices are nothing more than the heroics of days gone by, as we’ve reached a break in the continuum of our experience in America.

Now, everyone’s #teamobama and turned up for Election Day, but many of us missed the City Council and Board of Education elections. We can’t check in and out of the electoral process, because if you’ve really been paying attention, much of what’s being talked about is above your tax bracket and what’s not being discussed are the things your local government are left to contend with, but that’s not the lead story on your nightly news or your timeline.

The hilarity ensues the moment the debates end and it’s back to business as usual almost immediately as grammatically incorrect rants about “so & so”, talk about Tamar, graphic sex talk and pictures of disgusting looking food begin to flood the timelines. At that point, the show’s over, the curtain has dropped and the day-to-day nigga shit has thugged its way back through without anyone taking a bow for their performance as informed citizen. It’s back to the nonsensical conversation and oblivion of the world around them, yes, it’s back to the party & bullshit and party & bullshit and party & bullshit and party & bullshit.

With all of that said, get out to vote, then stay involved. Not just for you, but for your children and James Meredith and Medgar Evers and Dorothy Height and Shirley Chisholm and all of the people killed before Martin’s dream and after crack’s nightmare. Vote because your voice matters and your place counts. Vote because the party and bullshit will end one day and you’ll have to be counted for when the bread and circuses are tabulated.

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