My father was politically active. He engaged in local, state, and national politics. In many respects he came by it naturally, as his father was a mover and shaker in the dairy lobbying world. It is not surprising, then, that my father had strong views about many things. Views that he loved to debate with friends and family alike.
My dad also had a great sense of humor, which often came out during heated conversations. It also came out in practical jokes that he would play on friends who were on a different side of an issue or supported a different candidate. In maybe his best, and certainly his biggest joke, he made a large concrete sign and set in a friend’s front yard who was voting for the other candidate.
I heard my father engage in lots conversations, many of which got pretty heated. I witnessed countless practical jokes and political humor. However, I was never given any impression that it was either personal or hurtful. The individuals on the ‘other side of the table’ were his family and his friends. They were neither the enemy nor somehow personally flawed. They were people who had a different opinion and perspective on the issues at hand.
If my father was alive today, he would undoubtedly have strong feelings about many of the current issues. Yet my sense is that he would be discouraged that in most instances, we have lost our ability to have a good robust discussion without demonizing the person who does not share our perspective. We have all witnessed how the political landscape has changed from debating issues to character assassinations. We rarely see a commercial for a candidate or debate with any real understanding of where the candidate stands on any given issue, but instead are told just how awful the opposing candidate is.
Our Presiding Bishop has offered some good words about this election and I would invite you to read them here.
One thing is certain, after the ballots are counted next week, there is going to be a significant need for healing in our country. We commit in our Baptismal Covenant to, “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.” How we engage in the political process, as well as the work we do to bring about healing afterwards, is central to the living out of our faith.