“Love Will Tear Us Apart.”
– Joy Division
I get really heated about politics because I see policy as an important (though not THE most important) way to protect and love my neighbors – a cause that I believe that Jesus has called all of his followers to. Actually, that’s not why I’m heated about it. That’s why I think it’s necessary, but I’m actually angry and/or deeply disappointed that so many fellow American Christians have a total disconnect between policy that would best serve “the least of these” and what they perceive as the Kingdom of Heaven – which they see as merely a place you go after you die.
Of course, I also have many friends whom I disagree with merely on how to apply policy to best serve the needs of the whole community. And I love talking with them, and having policy discussions, and discovering the truth behind the typical talking points. I learn a lot from them, I sharpen my thoughts and begin to view those I disagree with (those supposedly on the other end of the political spectrum) as every bit as human as I, and I begin to drop my guard and give them credit where credit is due. I like to think they also benefit from debating with me.
The problem, however, is that oftentimes we get caught up in the waves of rhetoric that surround us on all sides. We can’t help it fully. We don’t live in vacuums. Even trying to talk about scaling back the rhetoric looks, to some thoughtful people, at this time like an attack on groups of people – or as if I were saying that the massacre happened as a result of some pundit’s foolish talk.*
It helps, as friend Carson notes and Jon Stewart held a rally to promote, to buttress our opinions and statements to bring the tone down, of course. But, noticing some of the comments on Carson’s post, changing your tone doesn’t work when you’re dealing with the tone-deaf…
Which is what’s happening in much of the media. I commend Keith Olbermann for pledging to scale back (from what I’ve heard, he did not use the infamous/famous “Worst Person in the World” line and calling the health care travesty in Arizona the “AZ Death Panel” – at least through Monday night), but for how long will this last?
While I was on the treadmill this morning, I noticed that CNN was showing the Congressional memorial for the victims at least through Minority Leader Pelosi’s speech as well as Majority Leader Cantor’s. Fox News, on the other hand, was using the opportunity to give Palin free reign to defend her despicable, violent speech (it’s free speech, apparently, and you can’t criticize it as long as it’s hers… That’s what the Constitution says, don’tchaknow?).
Truly, I want to be in a space where I can continue to dialog with my friends. But this country is toxic right now. It doesn’t have to be. We can choose to turn away the hateful rhetoric. We can tell Congress that we can no longer afford to
Or, we can forget about living in The Greatest Country in the World (one of plurality of ideas and cultures) and move into our gated tribal “communities” based on social/racial/political/class/religious tests. Unless that’s what we’re already in?
*The point that most of my progressive friends are making when bringing up the rhetoric debate is that it leads to a poisonous environment, not that it was directly involved in the shooting. But nuances sometimes fail.