Monday night was one of those rare nights when my family was all in the same room together at the same time. Yet I was watching the Home Run Derby on the flatscreen, my daughter was listening to Pink Floyd via her iPhone and earbuds, my wife was on Facebook checking in with friends, and my son was monitoring his fantasy baseball stats on his computer. We were in the same room, but we were in multiple parallel universes at the same time.
The dark side of all our shiny, whiz-bang personal technology is that it has balkanized us from one another, probably allowing us all to pursue our own peculiar individual interests within the pretty echo chambers we've bought that feed and encourage our separateness.
It's especially true with news - the media is a bunch of different media, a president once noted. All these different narrowcasting media outlets on the internet and a thousand cable TV channels let us pick up only the shards of info that reinforce our tastes and worldviews while ignoring those that challenge our thinking.
Where have you gone, Walter Cronkite, when we all came to a common place (our black-and-white TV), shared a common baseline of facts (America good, Russia bad) and had pretty common worldviews? (America is the coolest country in the world!)
And all our cool technology also means we probably spend more time in virtual realities than real realities, realities manufactured by the media, by governments, by corporations. A recent study found that the average American devotes more than 10 hours a day to screen time.
So we really need to remind ourselves to go experience messy realness now and then. The True Gen, Hemingway called it, the true genuine. It's not always as pretty as cable TV, but it's more alive.
It's also vital that we come together out there in the places we share occasionally and talk to one another, see what the other guys really think. There's surprise and inspiration and commonality out there, a crazy marketplace of ideas that is reward unto itself.
Not only that, the public square is where we become something more than consumers and chauffeurs for our kids; we get a chance to participate in something larger than ourselves, to be citizens of our city.
So here's an invitation. Get out of your bubble for a night and be a citizen.
On July 21, Gazette Media, Colorado Politics and the AARP are hosting a Community Conversation on health care and how it might change completely in the coming days.
There's no better subject right now as the Senate debates new plans that will affect all our lives. How will the Senate's action - or inaction - affect Colorado? Will premiums go down or up more? Will more people be covered or fewer? Will pre-existing conditions be a factor in whether I can get coverage? Will my kids be kicked off my insurance or stay on it forever? (AAARGGH!)
We're planning on a lively discussion among Rep. Doug Lamborn, El Paso County's Republican congressman; state Sen. Irene Aguilar, a Democrat representing Denver; Kyle Legleiter, senior director of policy and advocacy with the Colorado Health Foundation; and Linda Gorman, director of the Health Care Policy Center for the Independence Institute.
We plan on starting at 6 p.m. at the Historic Day Nursery, 104 E. Rio Grande St. in Colorado Springs.
After introductions by our moderator Eric Singer, we'll ask each of the panelists to start with a five-minute opening statement, then we'll go to 45 to 50 minutes of questions from you. Then each panelist will be asked to sum up with a two-minute closing statement. We're aiming to keep the entire event to an hour and a half.
Our discussion will focus on the question: How will possible changes to health care programs and laws affect all of us in Colorado?
Aguilar was the first in her family to complete college, and she is also a medical doctor. Her daughter Amy's developmental disabilities have served as an inspiration for her work in support of health care reform. She has worked with Colorado's Blue Ribbon Commission on health care reform and now serves as president of Health Care for All Colorado, an organization that advocates for a comprehensive health care system. She also serves on the state's Minority Health Advisory Commission.
Lamborn was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2006 to represent Colorado's 5th Congressional District, based in Colorado Springs. In May, he voted in favor of the American Health Care Act, the House bill to reform Obamacare. Lamborn also serves on the Armed Services and Natural Resources committees in Congress. Throughout his time in public service, he has been a leader on pro-family and small-business issues, a strong advocate for veterans and military, and a supporter of lower taxes, immigration reform, less government spending and protection of the Second Amendment.
Legleiter oversees the Colorado Health Foundation's lobbying, advocacy and government affairs efforts related to its mission to make Colorado the healthiest state in the nation. Legleiter also is the past president of the Colorado Public Health Association, Colorado's largest association of public and environmental health professionals. He holds a master's degree in public health from the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and a bachelor's in public health and French from Amherst College.
A former academic economist, Gorman has written extensively about the government's impact on health care decisions and consumer-directed health care. In addition to her work for the Independence Institute, she has written for professional journals, periodicals, newspapers and specialist blogs. In 2015, she was appointed to the Colorado Commission on Affordable Health Care.
These folks don't share many of the same views, but they do share a commitment to public dialogue, to talking to the people who run the country - you. They are willing to get together and test their views out against one another because they get a chance to hear from you directly and engage in a little direct democracy and maybe find out where we all might come together just a little bit on all the issues that divide us.
So please, just for a night, turn off your flatscreen, your Facebook and your iPhone and join them, join us and join one another. Make America talk again.