I am pretty vocal when it comes to politics and I will admit from time to time, I get a little riled up and resort to the occasional poking of the bear or certain inferences that I know bother people (i.e. calling a conservative a snowflake). Politics have always been a tough thing to discuss because, like religion, it often clings to certain beliefs that are core to our identity.
When I was in graduate school we were learning about counseling, specifically, marriage counseling. In one of the studies we watched, they connected individuals to heart rate and blood pressure monitors. What they discovered is at certain levels we lose our ability to listen. We turn to fight or flight. We actually watched a video of a husband and wife fighting loudly while in agreement with each other. But because they felt attacked their heart rates had accelerated to a point they were no longer able to comprehend the words coming out of their spouse’s mouth.
I see that a lot lately and from both sides of the political spectrum. Because I have been more vocal towards conservatives, people assume that I am a liberal democrat. That is not true. I vote for who I feel is best and that will be Republicans some times, Democrats other times, and independent or third-party candidates still other times. I admit recently I have been voting more for democratic candidates that has more to do with who is aligning with my core values.
Before I continue, I want to take you back to my first opportunity to vote. I was an 18 year-old freshman in college. In high school I had been looking forward to my first real election (I had voted in mock elections held at the school). But something weird happened in the lead up to the election. I was living in west-central Wisconsin. We were represented by Democratic senators Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold and Republican Representative Steve Gunderson (pictured). I was looking forward to voting for Russ and Steve. Steve Gunderson had been outed as gay a few years prior by a fellow Republican in the House of Representatives (this would be Bob Dornan for those not down with political history). Though he was now an openly gay man serving the socially conservative area I grew up, people did not seem to care because he was a good guy who represented the people of Wisconsin well. However, the Republican party began taking a hard shift on homosexuality as it quickly came to the forefront with abortion. Mr. Gunderson did not run again.
We have become so engrained with a political message of Jesus doesn’t want abortion, Jesus hates gays, and Christians would never murder like Muslims. This requires a lot of ignorance and presuppositions. As someone with a Masters in Theology, I know that Jesus was all about love and he never actually spoke about abortions, Muslims, or gays. (check it out, he didn’t) Even if Jesus did, he would not want us to treat these groups like garbage. Christ came to challenge our faith. If we are too comfy with pictures of Jesus carrying us through the sand, what is the point.
We have to be able to take a step back when it comes to politics and actually listen to what is being said to us. If someone says, “Obama is a secret Muslim terrorist” or “Donald Trump is a pussy grabbing asshole”, they are not worth talking to. They have gone so far from reason that it won’t make a difference. However, if they say something like, “I dislike the use of drones because we are not clearly identifying our targets and this leads to increased civilian casualties” or “We have to be cautious about which countries we take sides with because we don’t want to get caught in the middle of a war between two other countries” they are not trying to get all up in someone business. They are sharing their concerns and critiques. And maybe you disagree. But the answer is not to name call. This is where you should state what you believe and why.
When we were gearing up for the war in Iraq, a friend of mine was just dumbfounded that I was opposed to it. We discussed it at length and we disagreed. As the war went on, we continued talking. This friend agreed with me that the invasion would lead us down a path that didn’t have a lot of promise and would most likely result in lots of soldiers injured and dead. But they also pointed out that we needed to find a way to get rid of Saddam. However, the way things played out we weren’t able to determine what would have been the best way.
I have now written a long diatribe. But the purpose is just to request that we begin working to talking with civility. Or we will just end up with a garbage political system and a country that becomes second-rate.