The fact that we’re discussing chapter four this week, means we are just four weeks away from Election Day. I don’t know how that makes you feel, but I’d sure love to know. I know I’ll be glad to get it over with.
Last week, we watched the Presidential Debate together. I promoted it by saying, “It will be fun!” I apologize. It wasn’t really that fun at all. And then, just a few days ago, I watched the Vice-Presidential Debate. I was sorely disappointed. I thought the clear winner was the moderator, Elaine Quijano. Now, however, with some distance between me and the debate between the two Vice-Presidential nominees, and after talking it over with my husband quite a few times, I see there was a clear strategy there. Knowing that doesn’t necessarily make me feel better about the actual debate. I also haven’t changed my mind about who will get my vote. You?
The honest truth is that I’ve stopped watching daily news updates about the election. My phone sends me an update every morning and I scan the headlines to keep abreast of the general themes. But, I’ve stepped away from the news bites and the talking points and the spin and the social media conversations. For the most part, I’m not hearing anything new at all. The same holds true for the debates. Same old, same old. The debates, the commercials, the spin—they all serve to affirm positions we already hold. It can be a disappointment, if we’re not careful.
The form of politics we’re witnessing in this election cycle is the product of polarization and either/or thinking. Either/or thinking creates a vacuum which is perfect for extreme division and disunity. Where we think we’re supposed to choose a side of an argument, or a debate, Palmer encourages us to engage the tension of both/and. Both/and is counterintuitive because it’s the opposite of what we’ve been taught about being “right.”
Being right is nowhere near as important as we’ve been led to believe. The news we hear, along with the campaign commercials and stump speeches, speak to our desire to be right; to be justified in what we believe about certain issues, people, and ideologies. When my rightness becomes my litmus test, I look simply for someone to be for, and someone to be against. The desire for “rightness” thrives on fear and pride, both of which are barriers to love.
I know. It always comes back to love, doesn’t it?
Of course, politics is not about love. Not really. But the people who practice politics are called to love, whether we hear or accept that call or not. Love is not interested in the pursuit of being right. It doesn’t keep track of someone else’s wrongs. Love simply loves. It is possible to practice both politics, and love. If my choice of a presidential candidate is fueled by a need to dislike, or even hate the other candidate or that candidate’s “followers” then I have the wrong motivation. Politics should not consume my heart to the point that love is not possible.
Taking Palmer’s suggestions, we can strive to enter the tension of both/and when we begin with love.
Questions for you: Do you know who you’ll be voting for? How much is your choice motivated by dislike, or even hatred, over love? Do you believe it’s possible for you to vote for a specific candidate while still feeling compassion for the other candidate?
MY personal conviction is that I cannot vote for either main candidate. Some people would say I am therefore throwing away my vote, but I see it as the beauty of our democracy. My candidate may not win, but he will get my vote and it will be counted. I cannot stomach watching the political shenanigans at all so I just move right on!
I hear you. It is your vote. No one should be telling anyone what to do with their vote. You vote for the person that seems best to you, and we will absolutely support your decision to do so.
Just to add…. there has been some GREAT dialogue going on among some of my FB friends over the past 5 days…not everyone is in agreement, but it is respectful and I have learned SO much!
These past few days have been disheartening in light of the newest news. . I can pray for the hearts of the candidates… and for now, and that’s it, honestly Praying God works on my heart, too. Not sure how much compassion is there. Prayer and compassion for the families of those who make very thoughtless mistakes… definitely during this time.
So disheartening. I agree. Last night, I heard someone say this is the craziest thing our country has experienced since the Civil War. He also said that, if we’re lucky, we won’t see anything like this again for thousands of years. It’s okay if you’re not at compassion, yet. Compassion can’t be rushed. There is a lot of healing we all need to do.
Here’s something to consider, though. I discovered this while researching my next book: scientists have found that practicing compassion shrinks the amygdala, which controls our fight or flight response. So, in other words, practicing compassion makes us more compassionate. Sometimes, faking it ’til we make it is the only option available and, when it comes to compassion, studies show it actually works!
Yes to all this. I’m so desperate for our friendships and our families that have to survive this election. If we can’t find a way to love each other in the midst of extreme disagreement, we will all have lost something much more sacred than an election.
Another great resource on forgiveness is this quote by Daniel Coleman, in his book The New Science of Human Relationships: he calls forgiveness “an antidote” to the “lasting biological consequences” of cycles of rage, hurt, and revenge. Forgiving someone who has hurt us actually reverses those biological reactions: “it lowers our blood pressure, heart rate, and levels of stress hormones and it lessens our pain and depression.”
Deidra, I teach Civics to teens; boy o boy–what an election–it grieves my spirit actually. I too have walked away from the news. Feels like a smear campaign. But, yes, we are called to be compassionate; both candidates are loved by our amazing God. I’m hoping we can change the Constitution and give Obama a third term. ; )
Oh, wouldn’t that be fantastic? I feel as if we all need some room to breathe, to collect ourselves, to repent, to forgive, and to heal. But, every day I wake up and it’s not yet Election Day, I have hope that something beautiful can come of all this mess.
Voting in Oregon means that a) our votes are largely predetermined to go a certain way and b) by the time we vote it doesn’t make THAT much difference. I might be a bit cynical, but the election has usually been called before our ballots are even counted, since we vote by mail. So, it’s discouraging. To your questions, after much prayer I have decided I will vote 3rd party. Because of the above, I feel that I am voting primarily for my own conscious, hoping that my choice of something other than “either/or” will send a message for change – a message my heart can live with afterward.
That said, I find that I have compassion and sadness for both primary candidates. I feel like both are products of their upbringing, lifestyle, career and environments. They are the embodiment of the extreme end of a couple of different continuums. Ultimately, God is the one who chooses whom to put at the head of this government, and I personally believe a time of sifting of our Church is coming. The time for fence sitting is ending. We will stand His Disciples and it will cost something or we will flee from a crumbling foundation of the seeds planted in rocky soil.
But I love all you’ve said here so much, because it applies – as you know – to so much more than just politics. “When my rightness becomes my litmus test, I look simply for someone to be for, and someone to be against. The desire for “rightness” thrives on fear and pride, both of which are barriers to love.” When discussing building relationships between church communities and crossing denominational and doctrinal boundaries, I find that to be the biggest barrier. Those able and willing to consider a “both/and” approach or even the perspective of “I can’t say for sure, but let’s chat” seem few and far between. But I will continue to protest the idea that some espouse, that our faith is a fragile house of cards which cannot withstand a single question or card out of line or it will all come crumbling down. While there are definitely truths to die for, I believe many more are simply to be discussed in love. God does a lot of the “both/and” thing.
And, can I quote some of this post in my participant materials?