Y’all, it’s only January, and already I cannot do it. Already I am avoiding social media during televised debates. Already I am choosing to look at the screen with a ball game on as opposed to the one with political commentary when in a restaurant or bar. Already I’m flipping from news radio to my favorite local country station when any mention of “The Election” comes on.
It’s January 2016, and I’m already sick to death of the next presidential election.
Don’t accuse me of not caring about our nation’s leadership. I do care, very much. And anyone who knows me a little at all knows I hold some pretty strong opinions about who I’d prefer to see in leadership. I value democracy, I will vote (even if I’ve not a clue who that will be for just yet), and I’ll stay informed as best I can.
But I cannot…I just cannot with the constant barrage of screaming in the media or anywhere else about who’s right and who’s wrong and who’s got the next best idea. I just cannot with the snark and the Facebook memes and the verbal attacks.
Two conversations I had this last week, both regarding politics, are sticking with me as I write this post. The first was with a colleague. He was telling me about story he’d heard about the wife of a nationally known evangelical pastor. She was having lunch with a friend, and they disagreed–vehemently–over the issue they were discussing. And finally, this woman, she looked at her friend and said, “I need you to know that you are more important to me than your views.”
You are more important to me than your views. That’s not an easy thing to say, much less live out. And I’ve been tossing it around in my head all week.
The second was with someone I’ve just met. A new friend who, we soon discovered, does not share my love for Joe Biden. But a new friend who also was not willing to let my love for Joe Biden define me–at least not entirely. At least not yet. At least not until he knows a little more about me. Nor am I willing to let his political views define him. Because where does that get us?
Look, y’all, I know–I know there are very serious issues at stake. People’s lives, really. And I care deeply about education, about the economy, about health care, about violence (of any kind), about equality for all people, about how we care for the least of these among us. And my opinions, my views, on how we ought to go about handling these issues are completely and entirely informed by my life experience, my context as a white middle-class woman raised mostly in the South, with a pretty convicted faith and parents who taught me to pay attention to the world.
I do not know everything. And I might be wrong about a whole, whole lot. Ten years ago, I would not have confessed this. But I gotta tell you, standing here, at 40, with so much in my life not as it once was…it’s easy to recognize how much I don’t know, to see how my life has shaped what I believe and what I say and what I do.
We all start every day with all our baggage, all our crap (good and bad), in tow. If we’re lucky, we find folks to walk with us on the journey who will not define us by that baggage. Folks who will see past it and into the person lugging that baggage around.
We have to stop screaming at each other. We have to stop using sarcasm as our political weapon of choice. We have to stop making fun, pointing fingers, assuming that we know best. We have to set aside our arrogance and pick up a little humility. Because in fact, there are very important issues at stake. But right now? Right now we don’t stand a chance of dealing with any of them effectively because we’re so damn divided–and so damn sure of our right side on the dividing line.
I believe there’s so much about this country that’s good. And I believe there’s so much about it that needs some serious healing.
And what I’d like to see, what I’d be willing to be part of, is a way of setting about that healing that starts first with humility. And respect. And compassion.