Politics is a difficult conversation these days. No matter how we try to avoid, it still comes up, though, in all sorts of conversations and in all sorts of ways. Though I and many others are ‘sick and tired’ of politicians, political battles, elections, caucuses, and primaries, it comes up and emerges all the time. It seems to encircle us and is more a part of our lives than we really want at times.
But I like that. I want to talk politics. But I don’t want to talk politics per se, I want to have a dialogue. I am no mere Republican nor am I a Democrat. In fact, I am quite uneducated about what goes on in governments. But I want to know, and I want to hear perspectives. I don’t like avoiding it because people get upset or angry about it or because people are very personally involved in one way or another. It seems to me that we ought to be able to discuss and converse about most anything, especially about something that is so present in our lives. I also like talking about politics because it is fundamentally about knowing our worldviews, about learning about what makes each other tick, and what is important to each of us. But there are certainly challenges there:
- Very rarely do people talk about politics as valid perspectives, but rather as their perspective as right (think Republicans calling Democratic attempts (that’s a generous way of looking at it) to fix the economy “Socialist”). We tend to be myopic and narrow and think the worst of opponents in politics.
- Many times, we get political issues and themes mixed with Christian issues and themes, and often they become assimilated. If faith and politics get so intertwined, it is hard to see issues as better or worse and more like right or wrong. And we then can picture those who differ as enemies or unfaithful and that is dangerous.
- Politics s not simple. Tax issues and revenues, healthcare, reforms, finances, military, and voting reforms- they all seem to have lots of complexity and depth. I can barely figure out my own taxes, let alone understand how taxes affect the rich or poor and how much is needed to make up a deficit. Or consider how difficult it would be to provide programs to help the poor but also find ways to pay for them without creating inordinate bureaucracy- it’s not easy when you are caring for 200 million or so people. Or consider how complex international aid and policy can be when we receive oil, maintain vast trade agreements, and deal with global movements and issues.
- It’s a two party system. There just aren’t lots of other perspectives being tossed around nationally, so it naturally develops to have just a couple major perspectives to get behind, and certainly we have a hard time bringing different pieces together from both groups (i.e. compromise).
- We often get our perspectives from childhood and who we are surrounded by. Hearing parents talk positively about Republicans or Democrats certainly changes how we perceive many of those political issues and groups. We are certainly affected by how our churches, parents, grandparents, family, and communities view politics. I remember being at ACU the night that Obama was voted in as president and I saw kids in the dorm where I served as an RA crying and grieving that the world was going to end, though they had never been interested in politics and simply because their parents were hard core conservative. They had not been able to develop their own understanding yet- and some don’t do that ever!
Those are just some of the challenges, and it certainly bothers me that I struggle with them as well. But that is natural right? But the goal is not to be biased, but to be aware of how are bias are affecting us, to be self aware. But I feel like we do that so little.
Sometimes, we are not only not self aware but we aren’t even aware of what we say and believe, as has become clear to me through this presidency and through these Republican primaries. Consider:
- Fox News analysts and guests complaining about media bias from mainstream media, when they themselves claim to be the most watched and followed media network. Doesn’t that make them the mainstream?
- Barack Obama calling for a presidency and government that is transparent, and then when the government is involved in gun running scheme, they plead the fifth.
- Mitt Romney: “Barack Obama has divided the country.” Just Obama? Is he solely responsible? Perhaps some Republican responsibility? And perhaps some Democrat responsibility for being pretty square at times themselves? Tea Party and Occupy? Certainly is can’t just be Obama, or at least I think so.
- Newt Gingrich going after Mitt Romney for his business experience of taking over businesses and driving them out of business for profit. Republicans taking on some form of free enterprise?
Anyway, that is just some random thoughts. The point is, that sometimes we are really messed up. The rhetoric that wants to attack, to mock so as to destroy (“Obamacare” or “class warfare”), the posturing (Democrats running Indiana so that a vote would not be taken, constant filibustering by every side and party), fear-monghering (fearing and proclaiming our move toward Socialism, both parties claiming that if the other one gets in the way of jobs they will have to save us by filibustering or nuances or technicalities)- it all just seems too much.
I don’t know what is right for our country. I don’t know if we can even do what is right. Why do I say that? Because as much as we mock and get angry at our politicians, we are people like them and often do similar things in our own lives if we don’t pay attention. Many Americans, like politicians, want programs but don’t seem willing to pay taxes. Many Americans, like politicians, are unable to communicate well, unable to express themselves in positive and effective dialogue. And that is what concerns me. I have heard so much from people about how terrible the government is and incapable- but ordinary people aren’t much better. We take on mortgages that outweigh so completely what we can afford. We get fearful and angry when Muslims build mosques in our neighborhoods. We get upset when we are asked to pay more for anything, even when it is for our benefit. Very few Americans watch a budget closely. Most Americans thrive on credit alone. How are we then different from those politicians? That is why I feel like we must be more careful about how we elect and vote and set expectations.
I am neither Democrat nor Republican, but I liked President Obama and had this vision of a grand presidency as many people did. But as I have realized, it is as other presidents. He is just like us, sometimes able to work with others and sometimes not, sometimes effective communicating and sometimes too nuanced. I set expectations that were more than any person or president could realistically perform. But like everyone else, I have to be aware of that expectation and how it keeps me from dialoguing well. I have to be responsible to appropriate see the faults and the successes of a presidency, or a governor, or a mayor or anything else in this world. I have to be careful not to vote on the grandeur of my vision but the reality of that vision. But it seems as if people can only stay solidly on the greatness of this president, and some stuck on the Socialistic and out to destroy the country vision of the president. I have to see the flaws and successes. We have to be honest with ourselves about ourselves and others. He has disappointed me- he has been as bad as Bush in regards to the “security” of our country (still there is a Gitmo, still we can take people and imprison them for being suspected terrorists), he has pressed that the bailouts were critical to slow the recession but that isn’t measurable, he hasn’t worked as much with Republicans…. BUT, he has been good in some respects- he seems to be very good at gaining respect overseas, he does often call for dialogue (especially with other countries), he seems to represent the poor (whether all that effectively I am not sure), he has compromised on some important things, he has driven towards healthcare reform (although I don’t think this healthcare reform is nearly the solution)…There are many things on both sides that I could say, but the point is that nearly every person in the government is flawed, and there ideas are flawed, and the government itself is flawed. With that in mind, there is no way that I can be so lividly one party or another and lividly support them as though unflawed. But if I don’t see my party, my ideas, my candidate as flawed we put ourselves in stubborn places that block out the possibility of good dialogue and troubleshooting. (One staunch Republican I know said recently about MLK Day that MLK had an awesome message but Democrats have made it all about black people and minorities. Really? Are you really that blocked from accepting the possibility that the other party or other people really have something to offer?)
That is all to reinforce how I started. I don’t know how to solve the recession. I don’t know how to fix Wall Street. I don’t know who would be the best candidate for President or governor would be. I don’t believe that one tax strategy is completely wrong (raising taxes) and one completely (right). I don’t know these things. But I do believe each strategy can work in the right circumstances. And I do believe that government can be really bureaucratic, but that government has to act and be present. I don’t know if there is voter fraud on grand levels, but I do believe it shouldn’t happen. I believe we must care for the poor and help the needy (poor or unhealthy…) and respect all people, but we cannot neglect everyone else either. I don’t know that corporations ought to have the rights of people, but in our market I believe we ought to respect the right to make money (even boatloads of it).
I don’t know, but I want to talk about it. I want to be able to learn and also compromise when needed. Because I believe that we need learn that everyone has something to offer. And because, when push comes to push, I believe that no one person can bring down our country- nor can one bad strategy or policy destroy us.
But even more important than that, I don’t know these things (and no one does for sure, I believe) and it really doesn’t matter. The message to be heard is that no security should ever be put into this country, to one party, or to one political worldview. No trust can be given to those things. In all these things, it is okay to not know because we trust in God bring us as people, not simply as Americans, into his will and his kingdom. We can talk about these things, we can laugh about our own parties flaws, we can compromise, because our security and faith is not in America, but in the God who loves all his people, who provides for his people, who calls his people beyond this earths’ designations and titles. That is good news. And definitely worth talking about too.