By Sammie Hill—

Last week, Sawyer Schmitt wrote an article questioning the values of our culture due to the focus of many Americans on Miley Cyrus’s provocative VMA performance over serious issues such as Syria and the March on Washington anniversary. Although I feel like the situation with Syria has garnered more attention this week, the question remains of why our culture focuses its attention on senseless entertainment rather than confronting the serious issues of our world today.

I don’t claim to know the answer. But I do have a theory.

These are troubling times for Americans. Countless adults are struggling with unemployment, debt, career decisions, raising a family, and more. College students are forced to take on student debt in exchange for juggling 18 hours of classes and a part-time job, all while wondering if they’ve picked the right major, if their life is heading in the right direction, and if they will be able to find a job after graduation. Our nation, already reeling from our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, is facing threats from other nations while considering an attack on Syria, which some fear will escalate to even more violence.

These issues are taking a toll on our psyches. Anxiety is virtually inescapable in our nation today.

So, while I find it disconcerting that an article explaining the Syria situation is placed below the headline of “Beyonce takes Blue Ivy yachting,” I can understand why Americans crave a distraction from the serious issues facing our society. Should “Dancing with the Stars: Cast of Season 17” be a more popular search term than “Syria”? I don’t think so, but the idea of watching Bill Nye break it down on national T.V. makes people feel better than the idea of involving ourselves in foreign conflict.

I’m not defending our culture’s fascination with cheap entertainment; instead, I’m suggesting that these topics are popular because they distract us from our anxiety. They give our minds a break. For just a moment, they lighten the heavy burdens we are all carrying, in one form or another.

Do I think that Americans should be educated and actively engaged in the current events of the world? Absolutely. Do I think Miley Cyrus should take precedence over relevant topics such as a looming strike on Syria? Absolutely not.

But as much as we complain about it, Miley gave us exactly what we wanted. That’s why we watched the VMAs in the first place. That’s why we were so enthralled by her strange and disturbing performance, even for days after. She provided us with a distraction from everything else going on right now that makes us feel threatened.

However, while I understand and admittedly sometimes engage in the fascination with pop culture and all of its outlandish eccentricity, ignoring the problems of the world does not make anything better. Although turning our attention to mindless entertainment may temporarily alleviate our anxiety about the state of society and the future of our nation, distractions are just that—distractions. We’ll never truly feel better about the future until we make the effort to change it.

I agree with Sawyer that we need to reassess our priorities as Americans. I agree that we need to work to “save our moral compass and inspire forward thinking,” and ultimately “aspire for better things.”

But how?

Many college students, myself included, often feel futile when faced with the daunting issues of our world today. However, I feel confident in saying that all of us at U of L are taking the correct first step—educating ourselves. By attending college, we’re equipping ourselves to counteract the problems of the world and shape a future of our own.

We can use our education to break conventional thought about the world’s problems. While supporting and advocating for the things we believe in and want maintained, we can also think in new ways, developing solutions to problems that have never been tried before.

Our generation has resources and advantages that those before us never had. We have a unique perspective on the world, and we have minds capable of remarkable ideas.

Thus, instead of distracting ourselves from the world we live in, we need to commit ourselves to strengthening it. Individuals in our generation need to devote themselves to their area of passion and utilize their education to create positive change. As U of L students, we are already on the right path. But in the end, it’s up to us to shape a future in which a Miley Cyrus performance will be overshadowed by the significant achievements of our generation.