After a series of losses and setbacks, I have found it difficult to find my way back into the writing groove. My writing has always been driven by passions, and those passions seem to have taken temporary leave.

Still, I do love the craft, and so it is time to push on and get to the business of finding my way back. The world is certainly not void of adequate fodder for commentary and enlightenment. And recent national and world events are certainly worthy of comment and reflection.

The first that comes to mind is a story with local ties. Jodi Arias went to school in Orcutt, just up Highway 101. My sister-in-law was in her grade level and they shared friends. She stumbled across a photo booth picture of Arias from the eighth grade — a sweet, naive face looks across two decades. It is hard not to find evil in that child’s eyes 20 years later.

But my takeaway from the Arias murder trial has nothing to do with the facts of the case, the gory details of love gone wrong or even questions of guilt and innocence. My takeaway is that our judicial system, like the legislative system before it, is now being shaped by pundits, commentators and corporate dollars through advertising.

Three generations of Americans are now being schooled by a group of former prosecutors with a definite bent toward guilty until proven innocent; civil rights, Miranda rights and search warrants be damned.

The rabidly prejudicial journalists will bring in a defense attorney on occasion but only to add meat to the feeding frenzy playing out around the carcass of the accused. When justice becomes entertainment and entertainment justice, we really have lost our way.

Which is why I believe we also need to be concerned about the ability of the federal government to suspend individual civil rights at its whim. It astonishes me that the Patriot Act, now buoyed by additional federal legislation, is no longer a topic of conversation or concern. It is as comfortable on us as a well-worn cardigan.

Every time some crazy finds his way into our collective consciousness, we gladly surrender more rights in the interest of national security. Fueled by irrational fear, legislators on both sides of the aisle stand up with an overly enthusiastic, “Sign me up!”

Enslaving a nation happens by degree. It happens in the fine print and in the gentle parental tones of our elected officials. “Everything is going to be OK. You can trust me.”

This is how legislation supported by 90 percent of the American people fails in Congress. It is not on us that our leaders focus their attention, but on the next election and on protecting a status quo that supports them so very well. Political Action Committee money serves both of these ends.

Whether it’s Nancy Grace or John Boehner, their goal is to make our worldview as small and myopic as their own. It is a dangerous trend and a very slippery slope.

I hope not to see you at the bottom.

— Tim Durnin is an independent consultant for nonprofit organizations, schools and small business. Contact him at, follow him on Twitter: @tdurnin, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.