Today is the big day, the day we’ve all been waiting for. Today is the day I turn 23. Oh wait, that’s just the day I’ve been waiting for. Don’t worry, I’ll forgive you if you had no idea it’s my birthday. However, if you don’t know the big, I mean the really big national thing happening today, then our country is in bigger trouble than we thought. (But seriously, if you are reading this post and have not yet voted, get off your phone or computer and GO VOTE!)
The few weeks leading up to each of my childhood birthdays, my stomach would flip with nerves. I wasn’t ready to let go of 6 forever so that I could be 7. I think the night before my 8th birthday I even shed a storm of tears because I didn’t want to be one year closer to dying (I was a disturbed kid, ok? It’s a miracle I made it to adulthood, let alone that I can write a blog about politics). Though over a decade has passed since my last pre-birthday meltdown, I had to fight the urge to throw an adult tantrum when I discovered that election day and my birthday share a seat on the calendar.
It is no secret that a lot of us are frustrated, discouraged, outraged with our presidential options. I have sat in more than a few rooms where awkward chuckles express our disbelief at this merry-go-round election, mingled with concern at what it reveals about us as Americans. How many of us have either heard or said, “I am voting for the lesser of two evils,” and then struggled to figure out which of the evils is “less?” But as much as these two human beings have gotten the whole nation’s (whole world’s) panties in a wad, I think it has given us all a good and necessary smack upside the head. It is a good reminder that we can’t all rest our present and future wellbeing on the character and decisions of one person. So regardless of who wins today, we have a few responses that can start to change our politics:
Get on our knees. To my Christian brothers and sisters, Jesus tells us over and over again to pray for our enemies. He also tells us to pray for our leaders. Though we might feel we are being asked to do both simultaneously in our current election, God doesn’t alter his commands to please our taste buds. It still stands that we are to get on our knees and pray. So, amidst urges to litter Facebook with our political rants, to complain mercilessly to our friends about the poor character of the president, to blame our leader for the godlessness we see in the world, I urge us to instead invest the time praying for our president (whosoever he/she might be). This exchange will slowly move our hearts toward ease. Also, the last time I checked, God still answers prayers, so the more we are on our knees the more we will see our political climate begin to change.
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior. 1 Timothy 2:1-3
Get off our backsides. It is easy to plop the blame for shootings, police violence, immigration tensions, education disparities, you-name-it onto the face of our country. But realistically, one human being cannot be held responsible for drastically shifting and mending the day-to-day lives of over 300 million people who call the U.S. home. Those issues that are driving you crazy, driving me crazy, aren’t going to evaporate if a specific candidate makes it into the White House. Instead of placing all power for change onto a man or woman we will likely never meet, let’s help each other identify the issues that best intertwine with our passions, and then, let’s go! Change starts with you, it starts with me, so let’s start using our passions and skills to shift the climate in our local communities. The giant oak trees that now provide us with shade are gifts from generations ago when someone chose to plant a seed.
It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there’ll be any fruit. But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result. Mahatma Gandhi
Get out of our boxes. If there is anything this election has revealed, it is that we can’t keep trying to see the world through black and white lenses. Few of us fit perfectly into the right or left wing, yet we so quickly take a step back when we discover a friend or family member is in the opposing party. I will confess that oftentimes when I realize someone is not of my “party,” I feel my insides tense, thinking we don’t see eye to eye on politics, which are so intertwined into what I do. They will never see value in my passions, so why take the time to go past surface-level conversation. Yet time after time, I am surprised when those I mentally put into the “them” category turn out to have genuine interest in my passions, even carrying similar convictions. All this to say, there is too much grey area to so quickly dump people into one of two boxes. There is too much grey area to so quickly confine ourselves to a specific box. Plus, there is so much more room for activities on the outside of our boxes.
Internal peace is an essential first step to achieving peace in the world. How do you cultivate it? It’s very simple. In the first place by realizing clearly that all mankind is one, that human beings in every country are members of one and the same family.
The Dalai Lama
Get back to the roots. Dear friends, we see a lot of evil on our screens. It seems our anxiety may be on the rise, because every time we look at our phone or turn on the TV, we discover another way we could be killed. We see another family sobbing over their lost. We see another politician making us look like dummies. We see war and shootings and violence and despair. I hate it. Yet as much as we see these evils on the macroscale (and even experience a bit on the microscale), the day-to-day friendly interactions with strangers, laughs with good friends, dinners shared with family are the reminders that there is still a whole bundle of good in the world. I would even venture to say that the perpetrators of the evil we are witnessing are the one’s who have lost sight of those basic roots of love and kindness, that so easily get lost in the chaos of our time. So regardless of who is sitting in the White House today, tomorrow, or next month, I urge all of us to foster those basic roots of love and kindness in ourselves. And then I challenge us to help foster some hope by providing love and kindness to the people in our daily lives.
To return evil for good is devilish; to return good for good is human; to return good for evil is divine.Alfred Plummer
Admittedly, I might have to fight a sarcastic happy birthday to me regardless of who “wins” the election today. But I need a little hope, I’ve heard a few others have been looking for a little light too, so let’s be encouraged friends. The world is not ending tomorrow. As we cast our votes today, the gift of living in a democracy, let’s be reminded and grateful that we have our freedom. And then let’s be sure we don’t let it go to waste.