On Political Sobriety (Yes, I'm going there)
An important email in this final election run. Please share.
Welcome to the last gasp of the dumpster fire that is the 2020 election cycle.
Wait… wait… don’t click away. Hear me out.
Listen to the news, your social media feed, your Nana on the other side of your Saturday morning phone call. We’re all feeling it. It’s a season of unfruitful wrangling, over-explaining, under-nuancing, and overt power-grabbing. It’s a season of identity politics too, everyone drawing up sides, choosing allies, and grabbing rhetorical (and not-so-rhetorical) weapons to defend their camps. We’re canceling and are being canceled. We’re spitting memes like fire. We choose the human power of now, forgetting that this time is temporary. We are drunk on our own politics.
I woke up to the news that almost 60 million people have already cast their votes. I am one of those people, and this weekend, I considered how much hope I’m placing in that vote. Truth is, I check the FiveThirtyEight polls every day. I follow the battleground states. I watch the news. I pray for a particular outcome, which I will admit is not for love of the party candidates. I am drunk on my own hope, hope that my vote will matter, that my choice for President can somehow unite a country. But what good is hope in the unifying vision of any political parties when we seem so hellbent on division?
This weekend I considered my own misplaced hope (my political drunkenness) and came to a conclusion. There is no outcome that won’t leave large swaths of America disillusioned, disappointed, cynical, and angry. There is no outcome that will magically solve the interfamilial issues plaguing our country. There is no outcome that will bring instantaneous peace.
There is a lot of talk about civil war these days, another sign of our political inebriation. It’s in the news, in our conversations, in the air. I once believed we existed outside of history and that that civil war was an impossibility in modern America. After all, even though we disagreed inside the family, we were still a family.
But were we ever really?
Things have shifted, and in that shift, there is a clearer truth. Our common fabric was not as common as we once believed. Though we’ve paid lip service to the fact that each of us was created in Divine Love and put here to share that love with our neighbor (it’s baked into the Constitution), we’ve failed to act that out. We have lost sight of the first principle that might restore something like unity, or at least order. And this is not a singular shot against the godless-secular-atheist-neocommunist-pleasure-mongers. This viral forgetting has infected even my most religious brothers and sisters. I see it in their social media posts, in their primetime interviews, in their prayers for political outcomes instead of national healing. I see it in their threats to take up arms.
It’s ironic, really. All of us—god-fearing and godless alike—are chips-in on this election thinking that our side can somehow clean up the mess. Still, haven’t both sides contributed to the mess? Haven’t both sides failed to communicate, negotiate, and seek understanding? Haven’t both sides used as pawns against each other for their own political gain? Haven’t we been convinced that the other side is somehow less human than us?
I cannot speak to everyone, but I can speak to you. You are, after all, my readers. So, hear me say this: It’s time to sober up, to wake up from our political drunkenness. It won’t be easy. You won’t do it perfectly. I won’t either. But we can make small, incremental steps in the right direction. How?
This week, I’m asking you to:
Turn from prayer for a political outcome and turn to prayer for something like familial healing;
Turn from monstrous language, from the sort of name-calling that leads to further division;
Pray for an understanding about how your neighbor could vote for a different political party than the one you prefer, and enter an honest dialogue about those decisions;
Impute best intent to your political opposite until you can no longer impute best intent;
When you can no longer impute best intent, address the evils of this political cycle (racism, abortion, etc.) with clear, fact-based language;
Refuse violence of any means (whether in speech or action), and if some action must be taken, prepare to act in peace.
I hope there’s a way out of this mess. And my ultimate hope is that we can step outside the political strife and return to some modicum of unity. My broader hope, though, is that we’ll wake up from our political addictions, that we’ll wake from identity-driven divisiveness, that we’ll wake from the hate we line out like cocaine. My hope is that we wake and wake and wake until see that we’re all family, and if this family is to survive, we have to believe in bigger things.
Don’t Go Just Yet…
If there’s one regret I have about The Book of Waking Up, it’s that I didn’t realize just how addicted we are to politics at the time of its writing. I suppose I understood it at a macro level, but this election cycle has exposed a much deeper addiction. If you haven’t picked up a copy, please do, and consider just how the framework of waking up applies to our political addictions. Then, chart a course for true political sobriety.