catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 7, Num 13 :: 2008.06.27 — 2008.07.11


How did we get here?

A friend and I went to hear Senator Barack Obama speak at a rally here in Indianapolis last month during the primary frenzy.  It was a beautiful night.  People were lined up five and six deep for at least seven blocks waiting to be allowed into the lawn where the rally was scheduled to occur.  The rally started about an hour later than planned, but no one was complaining.  Music was playing, people were dancing and everyone was just happy to be there.  It was a wonderful night, not because of the candidate or what he said, but because we came together as a community, optimistic and cheerful.

Yesterday, I emptied my camera of the pictures from the last few weeks and came across several pictures from that night: a little white girl in a circle of older black men showing her how to dance to Stevie Wonder, massive crowds happily waiting in long lines and my friend and me with our Obama stickers on our shirts and big smiles on our faces.  I put the pictures up on Facebook, not thinking much of it.  Later that day, a friend commented on the picture of my friend and me with just the word “sad” in all capital letters and a plethora of exclamation marks. 

That got me to thinking about the level of vitriol in our political discourse these days.  I’m a bit of a political junky, and I’ve been interested in politics for almost as long as I can remember.  From the time I began paying attention to politicians and elections and the issues, there has been this deep distrust between the two parties.  I’ve read enough history books to know that it hasn’t always been this way, but I’m not sure when or how things began to change.  Our nation was founded by various factions learning to work together for our common good (which produced arguably the greatest founding document of all time…imagine that!), but the notion of collaborating and compromising seems to be lost on our current leaders.  If the tone of my friend’s comment is any indication, it seems to be lost on much of the public, as well. 

Since when does supporting a candidate you believe in invoke such anger and name-calling?  Since when is it acceptable to paint someone who dares to question our purpose and future in Iraq a traitor? Since when is someone who wonders about the dangers of the widening gap in American society between the rich and the poor a crazy, tax-loving liberal?

I’m not sure when or how our collective political discourse disintegrated to its current state, but I know that we have a say in changing it.  This year’s candidates from both parties prove that the nation is tired of pointing fingers, the childish behavior that the leaders of both parties tend to demonstrate on a regular basis and the outright refusal to support anything that the other side proposes.  Both McCain and Obama present an alternative to politics-as-usual in Washington, and, because of the character of both of these people, this election should be less about “swiftboating” either candidate and more about the issues at stake in this historic election year.  As individuals, we can refuse to fall into the media’s traps to rouse up the public on personal, rather than political issues, we can educate ourselves about each candidate’s positions on the issues most important to us, and we can talk openly and with humility about our political views and choices.  Most importantly, as Christians, we can recognize that, while this election is an important one, the only real hope for Americans and for the world is for God’s kingdom to be manifested here on earth—through us.

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