This is a little bit (a lot) all over the map. I can’t help it. I’m processing on paper. There is a lot of more than semi-random flotsam floating in my head, and I’m finding that it’s more political than usual. Sign of the times, perhaps?
I am pretty much the least political person you’ll ever meet. I’m a moderate in general. I don’t affiliate with any party. This is in part because I understand how affiliating with a group causes us to identify and tribalize in ways that aren’t always helpful. It’s also in part because I don’t think either party uniquely represents me.In the 13 elections I’ve been old enough to vote in, I’ve split my vote almost evenly between parties. (I’ve rarely been for the winner. You could almost, but not quite, predict winners by who I’m (not) voting for. Or who I’m actively voting against, in the instance where I’m not sure I’m exactly for anyone in the race.)
I get frustrated when I hear Christians that I love and respect tell me that [insert person] is the ONLY candidate we can possibly be for because of [hot button issue] that we as Christians should all stand for/against. (I heard this type of thing in more than just the last election, btw, hence the variable nature of the statement.)
Until Jesus is on the ticket, there’s not a “right person” running, only fallen failed broken people on both tickets. And even if you think one person falls on the right side of your issue, maybe there are other hot button issues that I care more about. Or maybe I think there’s a better and more loving way to show Christ’s redeeming power and love while we address that issue.
Neither party is on “our side” – there are no sides, though we’ve drawn them in the sand and seem willing to fight to the death over them. The days of discourse across parties about the best way to address an issue feels lost when it’s like we suddenly don’t even agree what the issues should be.
That can’t be all there is, can it? What, God help us, will make us start talking to each other, start working together?
I don’t have the answers.
So I watch while the party-in-power does something terrible, like change the process of law, or gerrymander districts to cut the other side’s voting power, to keep themselves in position, when really what they are doing is minimizing the power of other voices. And the other side calls them on it, screams to the heavens that it’s wrong… And they defend their actions arguing, well you did it first. Like who was wrong first is the point. (Doesn’t matter sides today, because it’s all the same horseshit both sides serve up, and no one is innocent. Go back or forward to flip the script, but it’s still the same play.) And I scream in my head because if it was the wrong thing when they did it (whichever “they” may be) and you knew it was awful then, why are you doing it now??? If whatever you are now proposing would be catastrophic if used by the other party? Then it’s wrong. It doesn’t seem like it’s that hard a concept to follow…
It happens in other areas, not just across party lines, and I struggle there too.
The only thing I could think, when the Hobby Lobby case made it legal for a for-profit public (non-religious) organizations to use religious grounds to override women’s rights, and a few of my friends rejoiced that this was a victory for Christians, was that I don’t understand how a for-profit company has religious beliefs (the individuals who work there, yes, but to my mind the company itself is a legal entity, not a spiritual one), that I don’t understand how corporations having the right to deny women’s access to birth control is a victory for anyone really, and that I wasn’t so sure they’d have interpreted it as a victory of faith vs a loss for women, if it had been a Muslim company. I just don’t know.
More things I don’t understand or know what to do with: I don’t understand how you can say you’re pro-life (anti-abortion) but also actively support efforts to block funding for and access to birth control, and affordable healthcare coverage for maternity and prenatal care and childbirth, and Head Start programs, and fostering, and tax credits for adoption, and other social programs that would give women more and better choices and children better lives… That’s not pro-life. It’s just pro-birth. I just don’t see how someone can vote for – or support those who vote for – all of those stances simultaneously, and think they’re on the right side of that issue.
I know it starts to sound like I’m aligning with a side, but I don’t feel like it’s about sides. At least not to me. But again, maybe I’m the one that’s adrift here.
If something is wrong, then it’s wrong, and if it’s wrong enough to fight about it, then it seems like that shouldn’t be the case only-when-someone-else-does-it. So: Clinton shouldn’t have been using a private server for government business (no, she shouldn’t have!), and yet a bunch of Trump advisors were found to do the same. (It’s not been proven that they used it for classified purposes, to be fair. But it also hasn’t been investigated, so we don’t actually know one way or the other. And there’s still a lot of screaming about how we should be re-examining Clinton’s use (even though it was investigated… maybe that’s needed, I don’t know, but then shouldn’t we be investigating everyone who’s done that to ensure there hasn’t been misuse or breaches of security? If it is a legitimate concern, whether for security reasons or ethical ones or both, shouldn’t it be a concern across the board?)
It feels to me like this is all just the same and all the screaming about no it’s totally different because … well, no one can explain to me why or how it’s different in logical terms. Just that it is because it’s us/them.
It goes on and on and I don’t know what to do with any of it.
This might feel like a topic jump but it’s related to me in that it’s something that frustrates and upsets me and I want to and can’t resolve and that meanwhile politicos seem to want to draw convenient lines around that are totally illusory…
Hollywood insiders and government officials on both sides of the aisle and famous comedians and artists and business moguls and the list goes on abuse their power and harass or rape women and the women themselves are called into question, are not believed, are shamed and attacked, and the men who abused them are defended (especially if that man happens to be “on their side” politically or religiously or what have you – as if that should carry any weight in the equation).
Disbelief that someone we liked or whose work we admired could do this terrible thing causes a backlash of counter accusations or the flimsiest and most offensive of excuses, when it should cause us reject that behavior, and come to the aid and support of the injured, and consider how we as people and as a society can change in the future.
And grieve, if we must, our own illusions and the multifaceted and sinful nature of all humanity…
We could start believing people’s stories when they tell them. We could try harder to put ourselves in the place of and the side of the victim, even when the accused is more “like us” on the surface. We could be less inclined to “explain away” how someone is misinterpreting their own experience. I think we could. Even if it’s hard, in our flesh, to do that. Couldn’t we?
We could worry less about ruining the lives of the accused, or spend less time condescending and blaming victims (leading to failure to report and failure to prosecute or convict and convictions that barely even count). We could put more weight on the damage done to current and potential future victims, and the precedent that it sets or continues to perpetuate when victims can’t trust us as a society to believe, support, or demand even a modicum of justice for them.
Maybe we could be teaching the next generation of boys (future-men) that women are real, whole people. That women have minds and hearts and bodies and will and volition equal to their own. That they do not have – have never had, whatever anyone told you – any “right” to a woman’s body – that right is hers alone. That a man’s role is not to force themselves or overcome/blackmail/cajole/wheedle past No, or to lie in wait for or actively bring about someone’s inability to say No, or to conveniently ignore the silences and body language that mean “I want to say No but I am afraid to” … or any other abuse of power or position, whether physical, political, professional, or otherwise … but to wait for Yes. That consent exists only in the loud and clear and unequivocal Yes, from both participants.
Maybe we could just all do better to treat each other as people, in real life and online. Across party and gender and racial lines – across all the lines we draw that don’t really mean anything in the grand scale (Galatians 3:26-29). And maybe even more so, if there are lines that maybe we think do matter – because we are so much more likely to reach people help them to understand “our side” if we start by being willing – really willing – to listen and hear their side, and how they got there, and remember that each one is a person with inherent value, everyone has a story, has a journey, has hopes and dreams and fears and worries, has needs that only God will be able to answer but that maybe we as fellow-humans can be used to meet.
Do we still have the same underlying goals, really?
Is it possible that still, as acrimonious as it all feels these days, that we’re not all that far apart really? That (aside from the extreme and jagged, broken ends of the spectrum), we all do still care about ensuring that this is a free country where not just some of us but all of us has – and should have – an equal voice and due process… that we do want to end sexual violence and abuse… that we want to find ways to stem the tide of senseless gun-related deaths… that we care that children and families have what they need to thrive… that in the end we want life liberty and the pursuit of happiness in this one nation under God – not just for “our side,” but liberty and justice for all – even if we don’t always agree on the best way to get to any of those goals?
If we could agree on that, then maybe discourse could resume. Maybe “sides” could work together for the good of all. Maybe. I don’t know. I throw this out there, but I don’t have answers, and I am awfully, appallingly, far from perfect. I’m just struggling with all of this in my head.
And I realize I’m not going to find an answer, because the answers are bigger than I am. They feel bigger than any one of us and maybe even bigger than all of us. But I can do the best I can to be better, myself. And I can pray to be made better still, to acknowledge that I am probably, more often than I know, in error or grounding myself in what is really all-too-human misinterpretation. I can pray that my heart and mind will be changed about the ways that – just being a person in the world – I might be absolutely wrong about some things, without bad intention, and without knowing it. I can pray that I, and that all people who seek Truth and Wisdom, will find it. And that God who does know best, and is able to redeem, will.
And I can trust that He will meet me in my struggling, and help me to rest. In Him.