Wednesday, November 9, 2016

I Quit Politics

I quit politics on January 3rd, 2012. That was the night of the Republican caucuses in Iowa, a night on which Rick Santorum bested Mitt Romney by a mere 34 votes in the first contest of the 2012 primary season to see which Republican would challenge incumbent Democrat President Barack Obama in the 2012 election.

OK, so maybe that’s not quite factual. But it is a true narrative, nonetheless. Facts and truth are not always the same things, nor should they be. Yet both are vitally important, each informing, correcting, and shaping the other – and they usually intermingle with each other to such a degree that it is hard to tell one apart from another. There are very few things in life that are immoveable, unchangeable data, or facts. There are many things in life that are flexible, changeable narratives, or truths. As a Bothandian, I believe each is important, and that we must chart ways forward that successfully navigate and embrace, while not confusing, both the reality of facts and the reality of truths.

Technically, I was done with politics one month earlier, on December 3rd, 2011, when business person Herman Cain suspended his campaign for President amidst patently false allegations of sexual harassment and an affair, and very real threats of violence against his family. I was a Cain supporter, and in fact had become a volunteer with his campaign as part of his Media Action Team. It was the first time I had ever become anywhere near that involved with a political campaign. I did it because I believed in the principles and solutions to problems that Mr. Cain was espousing, and that he was the kind of person USAmerica needed as a leader at that time. To illustrate that, I give you a line from an internal e-mail from Mr. Cain himself in the wake of his campaign suspension that summed up his character and why I supported him so fervently: “Family first, as you know.”

Putting family first is costly. Very costly. I know this firsthand from a number of life experiences, whether it be losing a job (more than once), losing a house (also more than once), or ‘losing battles in order to win wars,' all because I am committed to putting the best interests of my family first. During my last Associate Pastorate (which was one too many, illustrating that no matter how committed we may be, we can and do still make mistakes, but that’s a rabbit trail if ever there was one…), when I would preach, I was fond of using the phrase, “First Church of Family” to describe the ecclesia we experience in our family units, however those might be constructed, from the most “traditional” to the most “non-traditional” among us. Community is vitally important in every arena of life, none more so than the ecclesia, which is the body of Christ. We are meant to live in community, both together (‘commune-’) and unified (‘-unity’). And that community begins first at home. While we must open our families to fellowship and relationship with all peoples, from the ‘greatest,’ to ‘The Least of These,’ that cannot and will not happen unless it begins at home, in our families, with those to whom we are the very closest. When Jesus said, “a house divided against itself cannot stand,” he was right.

Technically, I didn’t quit politics entirely. I did go on to make an ‘endorsement’ of Mitt Romney for President in 2012. And then…I checked out. There was a lot of that going on at the time, apparently. I truly did not pay attention to what was going on, politically, for several years. I am sure I had some sense of what was going on (headlines and red flags are both hard to avoid, especially in the digital age), but I was either in denial, choosing to live in checked out ignorance, or both. In 2015, I chose to check back in. Fully. Completely. Without reservation. I remember the first debate I watched with my family in October of 2015. I was stunned by how much had changed and the craziness of the multiple, confusing options in front of us. There were too many people on the stage, too many cooks in the kitchen, as it were.

By the late spring of 2016, as the fields finally narrowed in the major parties and no one who truly appealed among the smaller parties or independents emerged, I had come to a decision, the only thing I had really stated publicly, although not really ‘announced’ per se, since 2012: #NeverHillary #NeverTrump

There were no good candidates, no good options, and certainly no great ones, at least, not in this view. So what to do when it is impossible to get what you, or others, would actually want?

I chose to vote, to take action. It would have been irresponsible, in this view, to not do so.

I did not vote for Hillary Clinton.

I did not vote for Donald Trump.

I voted Republican, straight ticket, something I had never done, nor do I ever expect to do, again.

Not because of blind loyalty to a party – my goodness, I am long since over that way of thinking. Not because of the ‘party platform’ (there is as much, as a Jesus disciple, that I disagree with in both of the major party platforms, as whatever I might agree with). And certainly not because of the virtues (or lack thereof) of the person at the very top of the ticket.

I voted because a hard decision had to be made, and no matter how distasteful being put in the position to have to make such a decision was, it was my obligation, responsibility, and conscientious duty to make the best decision I could make at the time, with the information I had, in the best interests of everyone.

If I had gotten what I wanted, Herman Cain would be the President of the United States today. I believe that was the best option. I did not, very decidedly, get what I wanted. But it is not about what I wanted, or would want now. It is about making the best decision possible given the circumstances with which one is faced. We cannot control circumstances. We cannot control others’ choices. Nor should we try, because that would be unloving. And love does not, indeed cannot, control the other. Love comes first. And love wins. Every. Single. Time.

So…the Bush/Clinton/Obama era is, mercifully, finally, over. It has been going ever since George H.W. Bush was elected Vice President in 1980, when I was just 4 years old. In essence, my entire lifespan, politically, has been wrapped up in Bush/Clinton/Obama. And now, as of two thirty something in the morning, whether we like it or not, a new era has begun.

While I can’t find the exact quote (I’ll update this later if it becomes available), someone on the news coverage last night said something I think is vitally important about Trump, and if we take the words to heart, we should recognize it should be said about all of us, not long before it was announced Trump would be the President-elect. It went something like this: “People have to give him the opportunity to make things right.” Of course, people don’t literally have to do so. But that would not be the most loving option. Not even close.

In this new era, then, may we all make the best, most loving choices possible, in every arena of life, be it politics, family, the ecclesia, or any other. May it be so in me and in you and in everyone.

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