NINETY-SIX/NINETY-SEVEN

THE ELECTION IS NEARLY HERE.  I just got home from getting my hair cut, and some of the talk in the shop was political.    You could tell things were just about to start getting heated when everyone changed the subject.  

Lots of people I know are DONE with political talk.  They don't want to listen to anyone's opinions and they are gun-shy from sharing theirs.  All of which I understand.  Who wants to be attacked for what they say?  Many people are talking about how fractious everyone is, and how divided we are.  I suppose on a certain level that is true, but is seems to me that we go through this every four years -- everyone picking teams and being convinced that their team is right and the other is evil.

I can remember four years ago, and even further back eight years ago when everyone said that Barack Obama would destroy us all.  I was told he was "purposefully infiltrating the system to destroy it".  I love that when it comes to politics people are depicted as all one thing -- all evil or all pure.

I am pretty old now, and in all my days on this earth, I don't know that I have ever run into someone who is all evil or perfection itself.  I did, once, get hit in the face by a boy who grew up to murder someone -- he was creepy and made me feel uneasy, but I don't know that even after that day, I would have described even him as evil.  Then again that maybe why he was able to do things he did -- he was hiding a part of himself.

I do not like Donald J. Trump.  I find him odious, rude, and disrespectful.  His debate skills are nonexistence and I've yet to see evidence of self-control (I follow him on Twitter!)  His treatment of women is unacceptable, and his respect for those with differing opinions genuinely frightens me. I would not, however, describe him as evil.  I cannot see into the heart of a man - that isn't my job.  

I have always been told that Hillary Clinton is evil -- some have described her to me as "the devil incarnate".  That seems a pretty harsh assessment of any human being.  I find that like most humans, she appears to be pretty complicated.  I recognize that the way I see her is colored by what I have been told about her.  Looking closer, I recognize that in many ways the mass hatred of her is rooted in the simple fact that she is NOT America's sweetheart.  There is a piece of this hate rooted in the mysogynistic view that a woman must behave a certain ways from smiling and laughing properly to taking the time to be charming.  Hillary Clinton, at least when viewed from a distance, is not charming.  

I find it interesting that many of the same people who have taught me to live by these rules:
1.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind and all your soul.
2.  Love your neighbor as yourself

Do not include Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama as their neighbors.  At least, it seems that way to me.  Open hatred of her is acceptable, and I cannot tell you how many horrible posts I've seen about our President.  

None of any of this has to do with politics.  I'm looking at things from a human perspective, and it seems that there is a strange inconsistancy -- on the one hand, I am supposed to overlook one candidates flaws for the greater good, and being told to abhor every thing about another.  I cannot determine why that is exactly.  

In a larger sense, I also cannot understand why we shoulld shy away from discourse involving our Nation.  I am supposed to be sick of talking, hearing or thinking about politics.  I am not.  I like thinking about these things - I always have.  Yet, according to my social media feed, I am now supposed to have reached a point where I am "sick of all the arguing".  I find that many of the things that have risen to the surface:  respect for women, racial and economic discrimination, education and health care are all really important.  I know that talking about these things can be uncomfortable but it doesn't mean it isn't worthwhile or important.  It has pushed me to look inward to what I value and believe -- some of it causes me to rethink things I had previously thought to be essential -- it has caused me to redefine some things, and strenthened my resolve in others.

I watched all four debates.  I did not watch recaps of those debates, or analysis of those debates.  I watched them - for myself.  Some of them made me feel very uncomfortable.  Because I am a former debate coach, some of them made me really frustrated.  The use of words like: always, never, totally and completely drive me crazy.  They are unprovable and in a real debate signal a sure win for the opposing team.  I listened, watch and observed.  

I have also been sent numerous articles and links.  I have read and watched them.  I've analyzed the organizations that created them, and tried always to approach all things with an open spirit of consideration and learning.  Although, I should clarify -- any articles or videos that being with So and So Candidate is the DEVIL -- I don't read or watch them.  The level of disrespect and emotionalism in the title alone disqualifies them in my book.

I say all of this for no other reason than to try and figure out why trying to understand and interpret the world around me is not acceptable.  Am I supposed to ignore the political realm?  Does my interest in justice and improving racial and economic equality disqualify my personal faith?  Am I not to be engaged or involved because my "true home" is elsewhere?  Does my status as a woman negate my right to thoughtful discussion?  All of this talk of shutting down discourse feels all to much like me, sitting with raised hand in the back of my Sunday school class and being told that I "ask too many questions."

It has been said, more than once, that I "talk too much".  I generally accept this as true.  I especially talk too much when I get nervous., but this is not nervousness -- these are genuine questions.  

I have NOT enjoyed the words that have been spoken by the Republican candidate for President.  He has used frightening rherotic and dismissed aggressive, predatory behavior as "ordinary locker room talk".  His discussion of his "plans" for our future are weak on details, or also frighteningly aggressive.  Yet, I am supposed to select him because of his stance on abortion, and also because the Democratic candidate for President is a known liar.  On the other hand, the Republican candidate is also a known liar -- I personal heard him lie on stage during each debate.  This, of course, leaves the only issue that drives the votes of many people:  abortion.  I know many people who direct their votes based on this one issue alone.  Yet, we had a pro-life President for eight years and Roe vs. Wade was not overturned, and in fact, the President of the United States does not have the power to single-handedly overturn laws.  Our nation was specifically set up so that he could NOT do that.  He cannot even single-handedly place people on the Supreme Court bench -- all judges must be confirmed through congress. 

I am not considering any of these issues lightly.  I am genuninely trying to think through these issues.  I believe that those who argue that those who admantly support the pro-life side of things, seem to lose interest in those lives when they are born; I teach at a high-poverty school where a pregnancy early in life often determines the future of my students both male and female.  Unwanted pregnancy is not a distant concern for me; my greatest fear is that the same girls that I encourage to study engineering and science in elementary school will become pregnant in high school (or even middle school) and find their early dreams a distant memory.  

I think often of other verses than the ones I quoted earlier.  I wonder about the mandate that true worship is to care for the widows and orphans.  I am surrounded by orphans and widows -- if not orphans in the true sense of parents lost to death, then orphans in the sense that they have lost their parents to the pursuit of drugs, or the fight against poverty -- many children are alone and undefended.  Am I thinking of them when I consider who to lead our country?  Should they be at the forefront of my mind as I vote?

America is complicated.  Electing a new leader is an awesome and challenging responsiblity.  I want to be someone who embraces that struggle, rather than someone who runs from it.  The freedoms that we possess are ours because we are a nation bold enough to entrust its citizens with the responsiblity of the struggle.  If I am to do right by those who follow, I cannot run from difficult and complicated discussion; fighting my way through complicated issues and bearing the weight of those decisions is my birthright; I am an American.