Let’s try to keep politics in its place

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By Rob Witwer

As we enter the most intense period of the American political cycle — Ppresidential election season — it’s worth reminding ourselves that not everything is political. This may sound obvious enough, but lately the line between politics and everything else has become blurred.
It all starts with our insatiable appetite for all things political. Car bumpers blare opinions in ever-more-shrill tones. News outlets have drifted away from factual reporting and now rely heavily on the expression of opinion, most of it raw and partisan.

Like water, politics seeps into other spheres. Most children’s movies these days contain a political message, usually with the subtlety of a flying mallet. Displays in public places and museums push thinly veiled political agendas. Education has become hyper-politicized. The culture of controversy has even infected sports (witness the ongoing lawsuits and debate over concussions in the National Football League).  
This is a problem. Politics is, by its nature, about conflict. Robert Frost put it best: poetry is about grief; politics is about grievance. The more politics spills over into other areas of life, the less we can find safe havens from the constant bickering that has so badly undermined our governmental institutions.
For the sake of our sanity and unity, we should all strive to find politics-free zones — and set free those places that have been co-opted by the intensely political forces in our society.
Let a movie be an escape into a good story, not a vehicle for smuggling a fashionable message. Let a tale about an interesting historical event stand on its own, not as a metaphor for the evils of this or that contemporary policy. Let a sermon be about the words of Jesus, not a diatribe against gay people. Let a classroom be a place kids learn, not the vessel for a union agenda. Let a pretty view be a pretty view, not an opportunity to lecture somebody about how it’s going to disappear if they don’t get up and fight somebody.
Let us find places where we can celebrate what we have in common, not fight over what divides us.

Rob Witwer is a former member of the Colorado House of Representatives and co-author of the book “The Blueprint: How Democrats Won Colorado and Why Republicans Everywhere Should Care.”