Politics?

During the Republican National Convention this week, there was a big flap about Mr. Trump’s wife using phrases that sounded like Michelle Obama’s speech at the Democratic Convention some years ago. A reporter on the radio chalked up the motivation for the criticism to “politics.”

Really? Is that what we have come to? Is “politics” nothing more than an effort to manipulate other people and events to one’s own advantage, and to defame and deride others? Do we really want our national conversation to sink to that level?

My political science professor said, 43 years ago on the first day of Intro to Poly Sci class, “Politics is who gets what and how.” It’s up to us how we go about that process. We can do it with respect and honesty or, apparently, with a frightening immaturity.

I’m wondering if we’ve become a nation with a bad case of Borderline Personality Disorder. People with BPD tend to view others in an all or nothing way, either all good or all bad. They see only black and white and have no tolerance for ambiguity. They turn anyone who disagrees with or offends them into an enemy.

We have a choice. We can think of others who have different judgments and beliefs as our enemies whom we wish to defeat. Or we can think of them as partners in an endeavor that none of us can see completely and clearly. We need every perspective. We need every person. We need to realize that “both sides” if we must use that terminology, love their country, want to serve it and strengthen it. Democrats and Republicans, Greens and Independents, Libertarians and Socialists all have the same goal. They want to do what it takes to make this country a good  place to live for all its citizens.

Neither Obama nor McConnell, Trump nor Clinton wants to tear down the country. All of them are seeking the good of the country. None of them has all the answers. They need each other. Let’s stop talking as if we were each others enemies. Lord knows, there are enough groups of angry people in the world who are out to destroy. We can’t let our political discussion sink to the level of name-calling and the making of enemies.

We are one nation. We need to act like it.

We Have the Power

Today’s “stillspeaking” devotional from Kenneth Samuel ended with a quote from Marianne Williamson that resonated with me after so many killings this week. “Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us….” On the surface, that’s a strange thing to say.

Why are we afraid to be the light? Why are we afraid to use our power?

I think the events of this week show us something about that. Our power can be used for evil. Our power can be used to destroy, to kill. Power used without thinking is dangerous. When we fail to stop and reason, to reflect and to communicate, we act from the primitive part of our brain that is wired to fight, flee or freeze. Those instincts may improve one’s own odds of survival, but they do not act with the power needed to build a new world, make peace, and bring light.

We have seen why we should be afraid of our own power — because we have so often used it with disastrous effects. We need great wisdom to guide the use of our power. We need God’s Spirit to guide the use of our power. We need trust that God has given us power for good, even if we often fail to achieve that good.

But the killing of two more African-American men, apparently for no good reason, and the subsequent ambush and killing and wounding of police officers in Dallas reminds us yet again of the need to build bridges and to act to bring light and healing to the broken relationships in our cities. I think it requires more than a recognition that we have the power within us to do good. We are called to turn to one another, to cross the barriers that divide, to use our power to reach out to one another.

Fear is easy. Anxiety is easy. Those come naturally. What is hard is feeling the fear and anxiety and not letting it control what we do. We have the power to say, “I feel afraid and I want to act on my angry feelings and hurt this person before they hurt me – but I realize that I may not know everything that’s going on here. I need to stop and step back, and not let my reptile brain control what I do.” We have that power. It takes courage. It takes faith.

To act with the power of light is to risk. Because that power requires us to give up control and to trust one another, to have the courage to build bridges instead of striking out in fear and anger. But we can stop the craziness in our communities if we believe that we have the power to do it. It’s long past time.