In my family, politics runs the gamut from Tea Party to Green Party, from Fox News to Al-Jazeera. My family is the melting pot of voter registration. And I’m not talking about see-them-at-weddings-and-funerals family, but close family who are deeply loved as well as deeply intelligent and opinionated.
This could be tough. It could cause awkward silences, silent fuming, exasperated incomprehension, and ruined holidays. Thankfully that hasn’t been the case. We instead understand that our love for one another has absolutely nothing to do with where we fall on the political spectrum. That we are all worthy of respect, even when disagreements arise, and that some things are simply better left unsaid rather than fought over.
Over the last year or so, I have come to view my political leanings and affiliations in a very different light than I did, say, ten years ago. For the record, I have a lengthy history of marching on various capitols for various causes, both “conservative” and “liberal.” I previously co-hosted a political talk show, and loved the back-and-forth with my co-hosts, callers, and guests. I have been an elected official, and I have worked at the White House. I have made and carried protest signs, signed petitions, and been part of many, many political advocacy groups. I have cried and worn a baseball cap and sweats for days when “my” candidate has lost.
I have found, however, that I am no longer interested in this mold of politics. I am instead much more interested in recognizing the motivation behind various so-called political beliefs, and how individuals can work within the structure of their daily lives to be a living, breathing example of those motivations.
This isn’t to say there isn’t a place for the types of things I mentioned above. Of course there is. But as I begin to recognize and name the emotions behind my beliefs, and as I begin to better understand where other people are coming from, even on issues where I completely disagree with them and they with me, I see very little need for political wrangling in day-to-day life.
I can count my motivations on one hand: love, justice, mercy, faith, and the belief that we are all God’s children worthy of dignity, respect, and equal treatment. If someone else feels all those things but disagrees with a foundation in faith, that person and I should not move forward from that difference in a way fraught with vitriol. That fictitious person and I should instead move forward by emphasizing the places where we agree, and by acknowledging where our end goals are the same. If another fictitious person should choose to leave out the words “equal treatment,” I have no business hating or condemning them, because after all, isn’t that what my motivations specifically rally against? I can disagree with them, of course. I cannot, however, direct judgment towards them.
We must all work towards the good we believe in. The best way to do that is through living out the impetus for having those beliefs. We live in a world where people do have ill intent. Where selfishness reigns supreme, and self-interest is too often the reason for decisions made. If we have in our lives people who are instead motivated by good, whether we agree with them or not, we are lucky indeed.
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