There are a couple of things you all wouldn’t know about this post I would like to share.
- I actually got up before my alarm clock this morning and decided to take the extra time to blog since I haven’t been updating very regularly recently.
- For most people, this post was written between 1 and 2am, but I scheduled it to post when you would be awake so you wouldn’t miss it.
- This post is my second attempt at writing about politics. I scrapped the first one because it just sounded angry.
- My coffee tastes particularly delicious this morning.
So, now I’ll get to what I really want to write about: the dreaded “p” word that turns men into animals and lovers into haters: politics. While I’ve been abroad, I’ve intentionally avoided it. I haven’t watched a single debate, I’ve read very few articles, and I don’t think I’ve actually talked about politics with an American this whole fall. I’m quite proud of myself. One of my Romanian colleagues asked who I thought would win the election, and I honestly don’t know. I know who I would like to win, but I have no sense as to what will happen in just a few weeks.
Here’s the thing: I generally like politics. As much as we would like to think otherwise, it is actually important (though, maybe not as important as we would like to think). Politics is especially important when it comes to public health, and that importance is compounded when you talk about global health. It’s a field which is poorly funded to begin with and budgets are cut far too easily (“why help someone else if we can’t help ourselves?”). It is vital for me to keep up with what is going on in the world.
So, why have I been avoiding politics this season? U.S. politics brings out the worst in people, especially during election season. Or, maybe it shows us who we really are, if we would only take a moment to stop and look in the mirror. People say the most hateful things about those in the opposite party (or anyone who disagrees for that matter). People bully to make a (their) point. People say others aren’t religious enough or don’t understand their own religious text if they vote a certain way. People let politics dictate their theology, instead of the other way around. People decide what is right and what is wrong without checking the facts or trying to understand the implications.
So, let me make a few things clear.
- Most of what we hear and see (maybe even say?) during election season comes directly from Satan. That statement may seem…strong, awkward, etc. However, I fully believe it is true. Think about all the negative things (and all the lies) that get spread. Think about how we tend to only focus on failures and every minutia of a success is harshly criticized. Does this way of thinking sound Godly to you?
- The US government has three branches. Before you go blaming a president for the failings of the country, remind yourself of what his actual duties are. Then, look at the other branches. Take some time to look at Congress. They are the ones who actually pass bills. If you don’t like the direction the country is going, start with your congressmen and women. Are they voting the way you think they should vote? If not, you can always vote against them in the next election. However, you don’t have to wait that long. You can write them or call their office. There are many ways to make your voice heard and to affect what is happening in the country.
- If you aren’t actively involved, don’t complain. If you have an issue you are particularly passionate about, get involved and, more importantly, get informed. Otherwise, please keep your mouth shut. “Don’t curse the darkness when you can light a candle.” Yes, there are lots of pictures going around the internet which make stinging remarks about abortion, homosexuality, welfare, etc, that make a point about the opinion we wish everyone had. Instead of clicking “Share,” do us all a favor and actually go read about the particular topic. You may agree with what the picture is saying, but you may not understand a) the implications that change would have (for example, spend some time with social workers who work the foster care system and see how overloaded they are and then think about what would happen if abortion were outlawed), b) what it is like to belong to the particular group the picture is speaking against (for example, if you think we need welfare reform, talk to people who live on welfare, talk to people who work in your local WIC office, etc, to find out what *really* needs to change), or c) the ability to actually make a particular change. What I’m saying is, make sure you have perspective. Look beyond the immediate and try to get a sense for long term effects. Or, better yet, find ways to fix or ameliorate the problem yourself. If you think abortion is wrong, instead of focusing on the legality, find ways to make it unnecessary in your community. Instead of making moral judgments, find ways to help people make better decisions and give them the support and resources to carry those decisions out. Sure, you can’t help everyone, but there is a least one person you can help. The founder of the Salvation Army said something along the lines of, “Just because you can’t help the many doesn’t mean you shouldn’t help the one.”
- The US is not a theocracy. I repeat, the US is not a theocracy. If you want prayer in public schools, fine. However, it means you will have to allow all faiths to pray. If you want to be able to build churches, it means you have also allow people of other faiths to also build places of worship. If you want you and your beliefs to be respected, it means that you should maybe first respect those of other faiths. Yes, we all have policies we believe should be passed because of our religious convictions. However, you can’t expect someone who doesn’t share your faith to live by the same moral code. More importantly, you can’t be angry with someone when they don’t. I’m not saying we should not let our faith influence our politics. I’m just saying we need to have 10000% more grace. If you think you have enough grace, double it and re-evaluate after a month or two.
We still have time to redeem ourselves. It’s never too late.