Politics and Bad Hair

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I don’t know which disgruntles me more this morning, the denial of my appeal to the Illinois Tollway for the $120 fine I was assessed or Donald Trump’s primary victory in New Hampshire last night. How a narcissist of that magnitude could win any primary embarrasses me as an American and both leave a nasty aftertaste in my mouth.
Politics rarely energizes me anymore so I don’t usually talk about it, but anybody who has as much money as Trump and can’t find a better hairdresser, well, that’s upsetting even to a politically unengaged person.

It’s really just in the past decade that I’ve become intentionally politically aloof. Mellow. Back in the day, political activism invigorated me too.

Society always confronts life and death issues in every era. I was born into the war against communism. On the ground, it was fought in Vietnam but ultimately the enemy was Russia. Peace loving hippies protested between love-ins and doping up on marijuana in Volkswagen vans. And school kids hid under desks in fear of atomic bombs in duck and cover drills.
After that war, life and death took center stage on a societal platform and the spotlight beamed on the issue of abortion. Our country splintered culturally over the question of whether or not a baby growing inside a mother’s womb has personhood and even if it does, whose rights trump. (No pun intended.) It was at that moment in history I was a twenty-something– zealous for justice, somewhat naive and slightly arrogant. I used to picket in front of an abortion clinic on a monthly rotation. I loved both women and babies and I didn’t’ want either of them to die so every month I took my handmade sign which read, “Abortion Stops a Beating Heart” and stood in front of the local Planned Parenthood. I’ll never know how God chose to use picket signs to contribute to His plan for protecting the lives of the unborn, but in hindsight, I sense my efforts were far less helpful than I perceived at the time. It seems to me a lot like the current trend where twenty-somethings like groups on Facebook or wear a T-shirt to communicate support of a cause they believe in. It feels proactive but I’m not sure it accomplishes much.

When I became a thirty-something and had a couple of babies of my own, I channeled my passion for the life of the unborn into the work of a local pregnancy center, volunteering on a weekly basis, administering pregnancy tests, counseling young girls unprepared for motherhood, and distributing clothes, diapers and formula to young mommies in need and at risk. As a result, I grappled more thoughtfully with the complexity of the issue by engaging in the real life stories of people who were in the middle of the mess. And I realized that answers to the biggest human questions are rarely as politically tidy as I’d like to make them. Ultimately, I believe, that the answer to all of the negative consequences of living in a society amongst fallen, sinful people is not government but Jesus. Who would have guessed that the universal Sunday School answer really does apply?

When the demands of my family and a cross-country move reset my schedule, my participation in the cause of “Life” transitioned too. I focused on becoming a well informed voter and electing government representatives committed to promoting Life and all of it’s related legislation. Those years, I listened to conservative political talk radio. I’m embarrassed to admit it now, but the kids were little and in part, I was so lonely for adult conversation, it filled a void. In retrospect, it reminds me of afternoon TV soap operas. The storyline is cyclical–never really goes anywhere- and you come away from it feeling dirty, depressed and agitated because the stuff you’ve been ingesting isn’t good, pure, true, honorable, lovely or of good report. (Phil. 4:8). At least that’s what it was like for me.
The constant complaining on talk radio also gets on my nerves. For example, when gas prices are high, people moan about the effect on the economy. When they plummet, they complain that opposing politicians are conspiring to sabotage energy independence. They might be right but malcontents aren’t attractive.
Note to self. It takes one to know one.
So, I’ll pass on talk radio and keep my sermon podcasts, thank you. And if you’re my family or friend, you’ll be glad because I’m a nicer person that way.

You don’t typically find me engaging in elongated political banter anymore either. In my experience, it rarely unites people relationally or politically. Sparks fly when people dig their heels in and fight for their cause. I’m reminded of the restaurant hostess in the movie “Mom’s Night Out” who tells the agitated mother that her anger is doing something ugly to her face.
It’s easy to be rude, arrogant and disrespectful in the name of your position but Jesus delights when we practice being quick to listen and slow to speak. (James 1:19) I consider the most important relational quality any person can emulate is teachability. There’s a whole lot of things I’ll flex on but arrogance is not one of them. Passion is good. Arrogance is poison—politically and personally. I tell my girls, don’t even think about bringing a guy home to me and expect my blessing if he’s not teachable. That is an invitation for lifelong misery that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, my country and most importantly the girls I love best. I tell them to look for a man who is humble, learning to admit his mistakes and repair the damages caused by them. That’s the kind of spouse, citizen and candidate I admire.

Thankfully, there are usually still a few candidates that exemplify admirable character in faith, family, profession, citizenship and personal integrity. For those folks, navigating the jungle of the political machine has got to be dizzying. God bless them.

Before I hit forty, 9/11 created a whole new focal point for Americans thinking about life and death issues. International terrorist extremism led to our direct involvement in wars in the Middle East, (Yes. I know that’s a position statement.) and increased security protocols at home. More recently, masses of refugees seeking asylum from violence and persecution command the public eye.

These days, I’m not picketing or volunteering at a center and I’m not imbibing the chatter on the airwaves either. Instead, I put my best foot forward, intentionally stepping out of my comfort zone and into the lives that God causes my path to intersect with. Whether it be unwed or at risk moms, international students or refugees that have settled into my community, I can contribute to life and influence for good one relationship at a time. And I’m wondering if that just might be a more effective way to eradicate the evils of the world than T-shirts, picketing, demonstrations, petitions or Facebook.

So it’s that time again–another political cycle leading up to a presidential election. It makes me think of a Magic Show with con artists promising all sorts of amazing tricks. Candidates claim they will fix national, international and societal problems in less time than it takes to kick a bad habit, fix a broken marriage or reconcile a fissure between friends.
How gullible are we?
Honestly, political campaigns resemble a parent who tells their kid there’s a Santa Claus or a tooth fairy. It might be fun to pretend for a while but someday they’ll grow up and realize it was all an illusion.

Our family submitted applications for absentee ballots in the upcoming primary. Daughter number two missed voting privileges by three months. My husband and I don’t always vote the same even though we share many core values and convictions. He’s far more informed than I and if I can’t summon the will to research a candidate, I can trust him to educate me.

My voting strategy is ever evolving, but during my forty-something decade, I’ve voted my conscience in the primary and for the lesser of two evils in the general election. That may change this time. If it increases the chance of the guy with the bad hair being the Republican candidate, I will have to go with plan B.

Life is a journey, politically, spiritually and physically. Society works best when all ages and stages bring their energy, ideas and wisdom to the table with a gracious attitude and a spirit of cooperation. I think that posture promotes the common good.

Here’s what I believe. In the end, the bottom line is that the only really good king is Jesus. And I’m waiting for him to set up his throne where the lion lays down with the lamb. In the meantime, I remind myself that this world is not my home. I’m just passing through and that energizes me to
Support What Is Good.
Complain Less.
Pray More.
Love Well.

That’s my political manifesto.

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