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OpinionColumnistsWilliam F. B. O'Reilly

Don’t we have bigger fish to fry?

President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference

President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the Rose Garden on Tuesday, when he answered questions about NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem. Credit: TNS / Olivier Douliery

Almost 3.5 million Americans are without power — right now.

The prospect of them getting lights or refrigeration back on any month soon is grim.

That’s just in Puerto Rico.

In the U.S. Virgin Islands, Americans are living under 24-hour curfews. Homes, infrastructure and communications networks are devastated — right now.

Nuclear North Korea just said the United States has declared war against her, giving The Hermit Kingdom the self-declared right to shoot down nearby U.S. aircraft — this week.

The federal government is $20 trillion in debt. It hit the grotesque benchmark in mid-September, but it won’t last: continued overspending and interest payments have us on pace to hit $25 trillion in the red in around five years. (It took 219 years for the United States to accumulate its first $5 trillion in debt.)

Our national infrastructure? A mess. A veritable embarrassment. Critical infrastructure — dams, electric grids, banking systems? Open to cyber attack — right now.

So what’s the prevailing conversation in America this week?

Whether NFL players should be fired for kneeling during the national anthem. That’s what we’re all arguing about.

Don’t get me wrong, I like players standing hand-to-heart for the “Star Spangled Banner.” I like it a lot. I arrive at baseball games early just to watch fans remove their hats for the anthem — my kids make fun of me for it. But can we get real as a nation about the urgent challenges that really, really matter?

President Donald Trump is a big part of the problem, the biggest part arguably. But so many of us — myself included — keep falling for the bait he puts out into the argue-sphere.

We need to be more disciplined.

Trump’s not the only one baiting, though. The political left keeps driving wedges between us with never-ending protests and communications campaigns against things like 150-year-old-monuments, Christopher Columbus’s legacy or whom should be able to use which bathroom and where.

Great college debate topics — truly. But, call me a hater, don’t we have bigger fish to fry?

Hapless Republicans in Congress aren’t helping. They control both houses of Congress, not to the mention the big white one on Pennsylvania Avenue, yet they seem incapable of driving a national narrative about anything important. Everything coming out of Washington is petty or reactive.

Look at the so-called Obamacare repeal bills. They arrive pre-primed for slaughter, virtually defenseless against healthcare industry attacks. Where are the arguments for why these bills might have improved things? Where is the talk of why we can’t afford health care spending increases at the current rate? Where is the grown-up conversation?

It’s easy to point fingers, but the truth is that all of us, as a society, are participating in this inane, ongoing national conversation. We have become an ADD nation incapable of focusing on urgent priorities.

Americans shouldn’t waste another minute arguing over who’s standing and who’s kneeling at a football game. We need those minutes back to plan who’s sending the diapers, who’s sending the drinking water and who’s sending the baby formula to millions of suffering compatriots in the Caribbean.

That’s what really matters — right now.

William F. B. O’Reilly is a consultant for Republicans.