I voted today and it was not a joyful event. Politics in the U.S. are at a low-ebb, at least the lowest in my lifetime. I hate both political parties——Republicans and Democrats. And please take note that my hatred is aimed at the parties themselves, not the people involved in them. (How I wish there were a credible third-party candidate to vote for, and no, I don’t need the comments and emails trying to convince me otherwise. And I’ll apologize from my roof-top if any third-party candidate comes close to winning this election in even one state.)
Humans, grouped together, have an amazing capacity to do justify horrific behavior when it serves their interests. And right now the only thing our political parties seem to be committed to is electing their own to power, and serving their own unique band of special interests to line their pockets and increase their influence. That’s their bottom line, and when your only compass is power, money, or influence, character and integrity is always lost. Truth has no meaning, corruption ensues, and society becomes a poorer place.
As I read Psalm 58 on Sunday morning I’m reminded that the corruption of those who seek political power is a constant theme of human history.
Is this any way to run a country?
Is there an honest politician in the house?
Behind the scenes you brew cauldrons of evil,
behind closed doors you make deals with demons.
I guess it’s nice to know this problem is as old as humanity, and the constant desire humans have to force others to do their bidding. I would hope there are people in both parties who care about a greater common good for our country, but it is not evident any more. They have figured out how to slice our fellow-citizens up into special interest groups from which they can find 51% willing to vote their way. It is corrupting to the core. George Washington himself warned us this would be so. He thought political parties would eventually ruin this country. In his farewell letter to the nation, he warned that political parties would turn the government from “a group of people interested in their nation’s future, to a rabbling mob of power-hungry professional politicians.”
He was right and the fulfillment of his words are coming due in our generation. Our political parties are money-grabbing, influence-peddling, character-destroying institutions whose only ambition is to increase their own power. Over the past few years I’ve spent more time than I would care to admit with people who serve a bottom-line above everything else. For some it’s money or power. With political parties it’s votes. But whenever someone cares about their bottom line more than what’s right or fair, truth is the first thing discard by the side of the road. They will say or do whatever they must, to get what they think they deserve and they have absolutely no concern for whatever carnage they create. Both parties have demonstrated that in this election.
But I do believe history turns on small decisions by thousands of people, and voting in a republic, while a small one indeed, is nonetheless critical. So I took pen in hand and voted once again, often having to hold my nose as I did it. And, no, I did not vote for President Obama this year. Probably the blog posting that has caused the most angst among readers and generated the largest volume of e-hate-mail, was the one when I talked about voting for President Obama in the last election and what I thought it meant for nonwhites in American history.
As I made clear at the time that vote was mostly a protest vote against Republicans for selling out our country to war-mongers and Wall-street executives, and betraying their own principles in outrageous spending, and I do not regret it. But President Obama has been a far worse president than I feared and I could not consider voting for him again. I knew his rhetoric for bi-partisan efforts would be far easier than dealing with reality, but I have been disappointed that he has not lifted a finger to forge collaborative legislation and has only bullied others to get what he wanted. He betrayed most of his campaign promises, except for those that served his leftist leanings. In the end he seems overmatched for the job, especially on economic and domestic issues, and now has run a purely negative campaign that has only torn down his opponent with false charges, instead of building a credible case for his own re-election.
We need a problem-solver at the head of the economy now and I’m hoping Mitt Romney has the chops to deliver on his promise. He certainly has far more experience in dealing with the realities of high-finance, and a greater record for collaboration than his opponent. But it was not an easy vote. The Republican party does not speak for me on so many issues, and the ones it does it seems to only give lip service to, in hopes of manipulating a constituency’s support rather than actually governing from those priorities.
I have no illusions here. Their bottom line is the good of their party, rather than the good of the country. I hope that changes some day, or this may be how our grand experiment in representative governance ends: the goodwill of the people overturned by the corruption of its officials and the arrogance of its political parties. When your bottom line is the amassing of personal power at the expense of the common good, you are part of the momentum that bears us toward destruction.
No, this is no way to run a country. The Psalmist was right. But let it also be a warning to us. This is also not way to live our lives. Do you have a bottom line you put above loving others? Do you live each day trying only to find what makes you happy, or trying to find a way to make someone else give you what you want? If so, you are also a collaborator in your own destruction.
We find life not by doing what is expedient for ourselves, but by doing what love invites us to do in the moment. That will lead us to truth, not away from it. It will allow us to live with humility, compassion, and honesty in the world, and where you can freely do that the kingdom of God advances in the heart of men.
I voted today, but that’s by far not the most important thing I’ll do today. There are so many other ways to let God’s light shine on the world around me, which will somehow unfold in simply loving the next person God puts in front of me.