10500540_10207076585295793_1475848205287202680_nIf the polls are correct, the current political climate is swinging towards an anti-establishment bias, with GOP “outsider” candidates dominating and Congressional approval at all-time lows. Increasingly, people are running away and choosing not to engage in public debate.

While the disgruntlement is understandable, I also feel we as a people have become less nuanced in our judgments; politicians are either “good guys” or “bad guys”, either entirely altruistic or totally evil, ideologically pure or, God forbid, a compromiser. The political forum has become pure entertainment, as we lose sight of what our public servants are there to do: address the health, safety and well-being of the American people. Can we get away from focusing on presidential candidates’ “bad” hair and or “styless” pantsuits? Meanwhile, we sit on the sidelines, at home, and in our bathrobes, and through social media can offer our own, isolated, “brilliant” advice or dazzling solutions to solving the world’s problems. In our cocoons, we highlight deficiencies without really engaging, enhancing the vapidity of the conversation about what we expect from our politicians.

We too easily buy into the marketers, spin doctors and ideological media outlets, from both the left and the right, to choose sides, often not based on facts and policies, but on superficialities and bluster.

Social media is an extension of conventional media, the “laboratory” for marketing gurus who shape and target messaging and outreach. On the one hand, the gifts of social media are valuable, giving us the opportunity to engage freely in a wide breadth of issues. We have seen great grassroots-level change happen because of social media in a very positive way; but at the same time, we can fall victim to the “spin” of information with advertising profits and expanding audience reach in mind. Depending on the channel, network or page, I feel the information peddlers are leading us to train wrecks, one by one. I, too, am easily distracted and occasionally find myself entranced with the latest train wreck! But these distractions can often lead us to ignore the issues at hand.

We need to get beyond the polarizing discussions about hair and clothes, witch hunts and flip sound bites and honor and work within our system for change.

As individuals we are buying into any variety of views of opinionnaires of both the left and the right-choosing our political action heroes based on appearances rather than issues.

Developing and promoting policies is one element. Then the real work is in implementation. You can’t do that from your cocoon.

I have come to know many legislators whom I like and respect. Several, on every side of the political spectrum, are working hard to protect the public and their communities, at the state and Federal level. We need to engage them, communicating properly, helping to complete the cycle of citizenship.

My interest is preventing cancer and doing all we can as a country to address the real actions we can take. We understand from the emerging science that 50% of all cancers are preventable; we also understand that policies can reduce risk for many of those cancers, in turn stopping cancer for some before it even starts. To do this, we must dissociate from meaningless dogfights and demand real engagement if we are to see change.

This struggle to rise above the drama is not new. It is just exacerbated by the 24-hour news cycle and social media amplification. We are investing too much time and money into the wrong things, losing sight of what can be life and death matters. Our investment in time, talent and treasure should be on things we actually can control, chiefly implementing the appropriate policies that protect public health.

We cannot ignore the opportunities that actually could create a future for our children that has less cancer. Yet in the name of freedom of expression, we can fall victim to corporate greed over our health and the health of the next generation.

We must not turn our backs on the health of our nation. The current efforts to fight cancer, which include building after-the-fact responses, erecting new buildings and institutions, creating jobs in a virtuous circle, is not addressing the real war on cancer. When we work to prevent cancer, we in turn also address a plethora of other issues. Let’s engage those who will use their pioneering spirits to work towards a future with decreasing incidences of cancer. We can all make a difference we must not lose engagement or traction. Now is the time to lean in to engage policy and legislators. Never before has there been more of a need to be engaged. We can make change; we can do it today, but we must not be drawn into the divisive tactics that can cloud our country’s future.