Moonitude posts started sending themselves out over this last week. They fired off like rockets, including previously published posts and this post here that was just a draft. I intercepted most with my cyber screwdriver, but, heck, maybe it was a hint...
This election year has been like none in memory. On social media, some people are in full opinion mode. There was an article on my Linkedin news feed, in fact, entitled: "Who I am Voting for and Why." Instead of reading it, I perused the comments to get an idea of what it was about. Right off one commenter wrote: Hey, Linkedin: political opinion pieces don't belong on a job search site! The rest went political, and my cursor hovered over the blank comment box while I deliberated whether or not to weigh in. An argument went off in my head: Don't do it! Oh please, just this once; I'll make a great point. No! Why not, what's wrong with participation? Okay, go ahead... enjoy the stress sensory overload. Maybe I shouldn't.
This presidential contest is like the hanging chad trial that mesmerized the world and caused a surge of enrollments in law school.
In my friends and family circle, political conversations always started the same, Zen-like. Somebody asks a harmless probing question: "Got a horse in this race?" followed by raised eyebrows, or another show of surprise: Really, you're voting for...? I wouldn't have guessed. And away we go, down the rabbit hole.
Don't you care about freedom? The poor? The middle class? Life? It ends in an indignant huff. And I can attest to this, because I could be counted among the huffiest of huffers. Today I'm glad there wasn't a social media back then, because, several elections ago, I was bent on fixing the world, starting with those I loved. The problem was everybody had the same idea.
Gatherings with friends and family was not the forum to convey the brilliance of one's candidate, it turned out. It would end with all the bruising and fractures of Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed's boxing match. There was never a victor, just a caravan of loved ones muttering to themselves on their drives home.
Dad kept a sense of humor about politics, but sometimes, maybe after he read a newspaper or listened to a frustrating segment on talk radio, he would check to see what was rattling around in his loved one's brains. On one such day, I was the lucky caller and he conducted a little political polling. I knew we did not agree on candidates, but if I explained my viewpoint ad nauseam, I was sure he'd concede a point or two. The problem was that Dad had the same action plan. We were doomed. He grew especially agitated that day and selected the nuclear option: hanging up the phone.
I would have been indignant about it, but I had been on that side of the reactionary aisle, because it was unthinkable that I and a loved one couldn't or wouldn't see vital matters through the same reasonable prism. How could that be? President Lincoln said "Peace cannot be achieved by force, only through understanding," so I would re-position evidence, trying to sharpen the focus, to reveal something he or she may have missed. But at that moment, holding the dead phone in my hand, I saw how wrong it all was, the need to manage, the stubborn banter, the awful drone of mutual zealous righteousness. Most of all: the disappearance of love.
We didn't have to change positions or see things through a different prism. Love asks only that we respect each other.
Armed with blessed clarity, I called Dad back. "Geez Dad, our relationship goes back a lot further than it does with these politicians. We're just two votes. Not worth ruining our relationship over it." He didn't hesitate. "Ey, you got a point there," he said. And we changed the subject, talking about our everyday lives. The real stuff. That dialogue and tone never repeated itself in our relationship.
Months later, Dad and I had a conversation that peeled back the curtain a little, exposing the heart behind his passion. He shared some stories about his life, and his time in WWII. The concerns he expressed were not for himself or his generation, but for his children and grandchildren. That was where his heart was, and that's where mine was, with my children and my future grandchildren. Human life, our own family's as much as anybody else's was not to be used. To Dad and to me, each life was precious, created by God for His purpose. We had arrived at different candidates, and when we pulled the levers that year, we canceled each other's vote, but we did what we were supposed to do: the best we could.
I think about this experience now when I'm in my circle of friends and family, or on social media and an opinion is posted, or a rant ensues. I pray to control my reaction, knowing that we do the best we can. Only God can get behind each of our proverbial curtains and help us to respect one another and guide our choices and the future of our country.