(Fans of the American short story or short fiction in general may see that the post’s title is a riff on the title of a fine story by Raymond Carver: “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”.)
1. We don’t talk about the American Empire. It never comes up, except indirectly, in the presidential campaign, for example. President Obama and Mr. Romney may squabble over Syria, but they don’t and the media don’t bring up the umbrella-topic: how the U.S. has military bases and “national interests” everywhere. For starters, I’m not really interested in a debate about whether the American Empire is good or bad or some of both. I’d just like the topic to be acknowledged, the number of bases established (agreed upon facts), the alleged purpose and the cost of the bases, and so on.
2. This is connected to #1: We don’t talk about one of the plainest and most apt warnings delivered by an outgoing president–Dwight Eisenhower, who wasn’t all that out-going. And the warning–about a military-industrial complex and its effects on the republic–was delivered by Someone Who Ought to Know, not just a general, but the general. It’s as if he’d never said the words, or as if the m-i-complex didn’t exist, didn’t determine much of our policy.
3. We don’t really talk about race. It seems like we do because it seeps into discussions of immigration and not-so-subtle attempts to make President Obama not-American. It comes into play when we talk about voter-suppression. But we really don’t talk about the lingering economic and social problems that spring from slavery and its aftermath. We don’t talk about our enormous prison-population (in general) and its racial makeup (in particular). We don’t talk about how children of color tend to suffer the most from the worst aspects of our educational system.
4. We don’t talk about the environment. It used to be kind of a big topic in presidential campaigns. The world and we are suffering some serious consequences of environmental mistreatment already–drought, fracking, running out of water, rising costs of food, and so on. How many minutes (heck, seconds) do you think will be spent on the environment in the three presidential debates.
And there’s much more important stuff (I beg the question, assuming my 4 are important) we don’t talk about because, well, that’s just how American politics and the media roll. What’s on your list?