In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity. – Attributed to St Augustine.
Something awful happened today.
A politician was shot and people made it political and then they were criticized for being political. We heard she died and were horrified, we heard the reports were wrong and were relieved, then were sad again as the death toll rose to include a child, then relieved again to hear that the shooter was likely not motivated by politics but by mental illness – as if the lunacy of the violent one could undo the reality that was present long before this event: we live in a world that is horribly broken, and it is our own brokenness that makes it so.
I am partisan and constantly wavering between being proud and ashamed of the fact. When I am in a good mood I truly believe that most people want what’s best for all people, and we just disagree on how to achieve it. I tend to side with one political party, but I try with all my might to look for the best intentions in the agendas of those with whom I disagree politically. Believe me, this suspension of contentiousness goes against all of my natural inclinations.
It is hard for me, but I do my best, which leaves me frustrated with those who won’t at least try to be charitable in their discourse. Politicians get elected by fearmongering and mudslinging, playing to the worst parts of our nature. Our society and our government become about a Them – sometimes nameless, sometimes those who voted the “wrong” way, or “activist” judges, or “Kenyan” presidents – anyone who is out to get us. We should hate Them, defend ourselves from Them, target Them, maybe even destroy Them.
Coming under fire today (pun intended) was Sarah Palin. I try not to comment much on Sarah Palin, for a number of reasons. First, I honestly don’t know where my general distaste for the far right ends and a legitimate critique of her begins. Also, I am sensitive to how rare her aggressiveness is in a female public figure, and I don’t want to come down hard on someone with whom I disagree when she is demonstrating a brashness that I adopt myself. It was reading some excerpts from her recent book that convinced me of a mean-spiritedness in her public persona that is offensive and unhelpful.
We use politics as an excuse to be mean-spirited, and that us-vs-them lack of charity bleeds into our other interactions as well. That mindset in Christian circles will be the subject of another post. And while I don’t expect politics to follow the same rules as faith, it would be nice if the ubiquitous lip-service paid to Christianity manifested in something other than a further widening of the imagined chasm between us and them.
Brava! I appreciate this post very much. I will say that we don't really know the role that politics played–certainly a distortion occurred due to his clear mental illness. The story doesn't stop with him though. There was a person who posted the now famous "target" list on Sarah Palin's Facebook page with Rep. Giffords' name crossed out. Political rhetoric isn't filtered only to the sane, unfortunately, and I think we need to have an increased consciousness of the impact words can have–especially in our broken world. To be clear, I do not hold Sarah Palin responsible, but instead the callousness and vitriol that has taken over political discourse at large.