politics

Exchange Criticism For Compassion

“Are we there yet?”

Last week as we drove across wide open Wyoming, the routine comment from the backseat made me laugh. My husband and I had been discussing the upcoming election and her question certainly applied: Is it November 8th yet?

The election of 2016 feels a lot like a never-ending road trip. The narratives offered by various news outlets (or my Facebook feed) are depressing. If I’m not careful, I could easily slip into believing their storylines and forgetting the true Author of the Story.

More and more, as I wrestle to apply the truth of my faith to the life that I live, I’m learning to pause and ask myself, “What do I believe? Am I living it? Or am I believing what I live?” Choosing to define what I believe prevents my emotions from ruling my actions. How I feel isn’t right or wrong, but what I do with those emotions becomes prescriptive. Indulgence extends emotions. That doesn’t seem like a bad thing if I’m happy, but it can be debilitating when I’m sad or angry. As I strive to live what I believe, I’m learning to take my emotions and weigh them against what I know to be true.

Truth trumps emotions every time.

The election isn’t over yet, but I’ve been looking for the lovely, the beautiful, and the admirable. Thinking on “such things” reminds me what is true. One truth that guides me frequently is that gratitude changes my attitude. I believe giving thanks shifts my perspective from criticism to compassion. I’d like to offer you three things I’m grateful for in the midst of a difficult election year.

gratitude

1. I’m thankful for the imperfect people willing to put their lives, and their families’ lives, in the spotlight as they seek public office. I personally know dozens of good men and women who I would love to see on a ballot, but for their own reasons they have not stepped into the public eye. For many, the biggest hurdle is to open their family to the critical scrutiny that accompanies pursuit of public office. Would I be willing to open myself and those I love to the political crossfire? Perhaps before I condemn those who dare to serve, I should thank them for their sacrifice. I know there are God-fearing, Jesus-loving people on both sides of the proverbial aisle in Washington, D.C. They are dedicated to serving our country just as surely as our men and women in uniform are committed to defending it. Each of these public servants – elected, appointed, or members of their staff – deserve my thanks and need my prayers. Perhaps before I criticize the minutia of their lives, I should consider my own. Do my words match my actions? Am I living what I say I believe?

2. I’m thankful for an election that has caused more Americans to truly think about who and what they support with their votes. This election has erased the ease of color coded voting. Friends who have never engaged me on topics of government and politics want to talk about what they think, and how they should vote. The political circus of this election has far reaching consequences, and my great hope is that it spurs more Americans to participate.

Less than 30% of eligible voters voted in the primaries. Turnout during midterm elections rarely reaches 40% of eligible voters. Since the 1960’s, only one Presidential election has garnered more than 60% participation by eligible voters. Let me underscore those stats with a visual example. Grab 9 of your friends who are old enough to vote. Now four of you sit down. You represent the 40% who choose to stay home from the voting booth in November.

Folks, this is sadder than the choices on the top of the ballot this year. If you are considering opting out, may I quietly encourage you to vote? I vote because I believe democracy is better with ALL OUR VOICES – not just the loudest. The absence of your voice is a silence no one else can fill.

3.  I am thankful for the wide range of opinions and perspectives that have been shared during this election. (Yes, I see your shock. Stick with me for a moment.) Step back from the noise: mute the TV or radio, turn off your computer, and put your phone down. Close your eyes and imagine stepping outside of the arena and simply observe. Millions of Americans are using their God-given talents and voices to participate in a nation-wide discussion about the direction of our country. That is a gift. There are places on this earth where citizens cannot participate in such a dialogue without fear of violence, retribution, or detention. Perhaps before I condemn the process, I should thank God for the privilege of participating. Perhaps before I disdain those with whom I disagree, I should consider the gift their perspective offers.

Yes, I’m sad to see the state of American politics. I’m disappointed by the lack of meaningful dialogue. But I’m most discouraged by the perpetual polarity that pretends to empower. Too often we think making a choice, or protecting our choices, advances what we believe. The problem with polarity is that it constantly divides – and in every equation with division, the result is always less than where we began.

As we enter the final days of this election, my prayer is that exchange criticism for compassion. May we seek truth that builds bridges and heals division. May we ask ourselves, individually and collectively, “what do we believe? Are we living it? Or are we believing what we live?” By addressing the disconnect between what we believe and what we’re living, we can restore hope and bring healing to our country.

What Do I Believe? Philippians 4:5-8 * James 1: 19-27 * 1 Thessalonians 5:18 * Psalm 116:17 * Colossians 2:7

Politics is not a spectator sport

I grew up as an Air Force brat and spent most of my first sixteen years living on a military base, so my exposure to true politics was minimal. In high school we moved to Virginia, right outside of Washington, D.C., where I initially decided politics was best observed from afar – a business best left to those with louder voices.

DC at Night by Brady

Decades later, the election of 2016 threatens to push many of us to the same conclusion – we want no part in the drama unfolding between two leaders who seem adept at capitalizing on conflict. Nearly every news article or media talking head is quick to judge His bombast or Her failures, each example cited as proof that the choice of 2016 is the lesser of two evils. Perhaps, some argue, it’s better not to vote. So it’s not surprising that pollsters and political junkies have begun to project that the 2016 winner of the White House will be the candidate with the least “unfavorables.”

 

The problem inherent in this narrative is that politics is not a spectator sport.  And it’s not just about two unfavorable Presidential candidates.

 

Politics in the United States of America is about people – about you and me, our families, our friends, and our neighbors. Our government – at the federal, state, and local levels – was designed by our founders to be government by us, for us. And when we choose to observe from a distance, we’re forfeiting that gift – disregarding the exact freedoms that so many members of our military fight to protect on our behalf.

 

Whether or not you like the choices, the election of 2016 will not be any more palatable if you plug your ears, turn off the TV, or choose not to vote.

 

To be candid, I considered that idea for a few weeks this summer. Here’s where I ultimately ended up: choosing not to vote means I’ve accepted the idea that neither of the two unfavorable candidates deserve my vote, and therefore I should withhold my vote.  But whether they do or do not deserve my vote isn’t why I vote.

 

I vote because I’m an American. I vote because my husband, my father, both my grandfathers, and more friends than I can count, put on the uniform of the United States military and vowed to protect and defend a country built upon the concept of citizens exercising their right to vote. I vote because I believe the best democracy includes all the voices – not just the loudest voices.  And when I choose not to vote, my voice is missing from the chorus that makes us the United States of America.

I Vote Because

I vote because I’ve seen our democracy up close – the good, the bad, and the ugly – and even after seeing that, I believe my vote matters. But what if your candidate isn’t elected, Katye, does your vote really matter? Yes. You vote by absentee, they don’t count those unless the polls are close, so does your vote really matter? Yes. Exercising my right to vote is less about whether I like the candidates and more about living what I believe.

 

More and more, I’m learning to pause and look at my life and ask myself – what do I believe? Am I living it? Or am I believing what I live? In my endeavor to live what I believe, I’m applying the exact questions guided my life and my faith after tragedy to my daily life, to the areas that give me greatest pause in my faith. God is still God in the mundane, but if I skirt the hard questions, I risk accepting a gospel built on the life I’m living, rather than what I believe.

 

After working for nearly a decade on the frontlines of government and politics in Washington, D.C., I married into the military and found myself in a community where political discussions were few and far between. In the silence, I discovered a newfound appreciation for the faith required to live what you believe while in uniform. Whether or not their candidate is elected in November, every member of our military will salute the new President on January 20, 2017. I’m grateful for the wisdom offered in their silent salutes to the Commander in Chief. Their dedication and commitment reflects respect and appreciation for the freedoms they serve to defend. Their example provides an important lesson for living what I believe in regards to government and politics.

 

Living what I believe means stepping off the sidelines. Living what I believe means accepting the privileges afforded to me as a citizen in this democracy. Living what I believe means participating in the government of my community, my state, and my nation by voting for the individuals who will govern.

 

Living what I believe recognizes that the election of 2016 and the ballot I cast is about more than choosing Him or Her for President. It’s about the men and women on the school board who will decide the policies for my girls schools; it’s about the mayor and city council who set a budget and spend my tax dollars to maintain the roads I drive; and it’s about the Members of Congress who set the budget for our military. The men and women elected in 2016 to fill these roles will be tasked with decisions that directly affect my family and me.

 

 

My faith tells me that God created each of us, uniquely and perfectly, and we are called to work that only we can do. I’m not called to be a spectator, simply observing the life around me. The absence of my voice – whether in my writing, in my community, or on a ballot – is a silence no one else can fill.