The P word - politics: it's either totally off-putting, or a call to intense debate often leading to mud-slinging, even among friends. How have we come to this? How have we taken up such partisan positions with no thought for future compromise? Is it Washington setting the tone, or is it the TV ads, and the inevitable fact-checking that presupposes untruths will be bandied about?
The length of the whole Presidential election process is so protracted that to those of us that are not political animals these last weeks are as painful as fingernails scraping on a blackboard. Especially if you live in a swing state as I do. Constant robocalls, endless political flyers in the mail, and a barrage of talking heads on every local call-in program ... it's enough to make the most placid person crazy.
Even among friends I find it difficult to talk about my own position. I have friends on the right, and friends on the left, which of course is normal. But the tone of political discourse, even on social media, does not encourage a frank exchange of views. Rather I am made to feel 'uninformed', 'misguided', or even 'stupid' if I don't agree with 'your' chosen candidate - even among Christians. People assume because I live in a certain place, attend a particular church, or even because I am a Christian, that I will vote a certain way. Please don't assume!!
Many people I talk to confess that their views tend towards a more central position and find themselves without a candidate to vote for that they can confidently support. This leads inevitably to them not voting, and forsaking a part in the political process. Perhaps if all those folks voted for a third party that was a better fit, or wrote in a candidate, this polarized two party system would eventually morph into something that more clearly represents the people? I know, I know, lots of people will tell me that's 'wasting' our vote ... but how can a vote be wasted - it would show that I cared enough to vote, and, that the 2 main parties were not presenting policies that I could align myself with. But this is fodder for another post. Although, I do think that having more than two choices would make for calmer discussion because polarization would not be as much of a factor.
So how can we instill peace into the political process? By peace, I don't mean no disagreements, no debate, no discussion, but peace as in a calm, respectful, un-nasty tone.
Here's what John Wesley advised back in 1774.
"I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and advised them,
1. to vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy;
2. to speak no evil of the person they voted against;
and 3. to take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side."
He is talking about how to act in, and after, the process of voting. If we also took his advice for how to conduct ourselves in the whole political landscape prior to voting I think we could put the 'civil' back into civilization.
Peace and Politics. We are lost without both, but both together seem lost. Let's listen. Let's pray. Let's be civil. Let's vote.
And Peeps? I had to add some sugar to sweeten this post :-)