Sunday, November 2, 2008

Purple... or Black

All right, I admit it: I am probably the worst informed, most ignorant human during this election season. And I confess that I do feel a little bit of shame in my ignorance-- but only a little bit.

There are two reasons why my shame is minimal:

1) I will have nothing better to do this coming election day than my normal Tuesday routine. The reason is that I have been disenfranchised. Although I have lived in San Francisco for over three years, and have registered to vote here, every year when I go to cast my ballot, my voter information mysteriously disappears. Chris-- who is registered as Independent-- has always been able to vote, but I-- although I don't say it loudly here-- am registered Republican, and always get lost in the shuffle.

Chris reminded me of this little conspiracy recently, and-- like a good little citizen-- I printed out my voter registration to make sure that there would be no snags this time around (Haha! Take that, you crazy San Franciscans!). I then proceeded to leave that registration under a pile of mail and missed the registration deadline. Clearly, this is a conspiracy to keep me disenfranchised. However, it also allows me to tune out all political jargon because I am no longer responsible for the fate of our nation. Sorry guys, I can't help you this time.

2) My ignorance breeds only minimal guilt both because of a streak of rebellion and a fear of confrontation.

Now, my idea of rebellion is getting my nose pierced my & having a
small tattoo on my back. I kind of missed out on the whole lying to my parents & sneaking out the bedroom window to party High School days. And I get irritated when my little expressions of individuality become trendy-- like how every girl in the world seems to have their nose pierced or a tattoo on their back ("Tramp Stamp"... awesome. Just the image I was hoping to convey); and even little things, like when knitting became popular in the Christian crowd, and I had to give it up because it just didn't seem fun & different anymore. I know, I'm a rebel.

Well, this rebellious, need-to-be-different streak has really gotten me into trouble with politics. I just can't decide who to rebel against. Do I roll my eyes and scoff at my conservative, right-wing upbringing, breaking the shackles of the Republican regime and gaining independence not only for myself, but for the millions of poor & oppressed around the world? OR, do I rebel against these starry-eyed Neo-Socialist liberals, and stand up for God's Way, voting as Jesus would?

And that's where the other problem comes in: the fear of confrontation. Partly, it is my ignorance that keeps me out of political debates (I confess, I don't want to sound stupid, and I don't have many actual facts to add to the conversation). But also, I just can't stand all the arguing, the polarization and the name-calling that seems to be inevitable with those conversations. Can't we all just get along?? I simply don't want to become one of those ugly, angry people.

This is the part where my satirical irony turns serious. I live in an extremely liberal city, and work for a very conservative Christian organization. I hear every argument, see every bumper sticker, and get every email forward known to man. And the more I hear, see and smell, the less I want to be a part of it.

It seems like every opinion is based, not on issues or
passion, but on anger, dislike, mistrust and an us-verses-them mentality-- from both sides of the fence. I see inside myself a propensity for that same grumbling, complaining attitude, that same subtle sense of superiority over the other side, and that same habit of generalizing, assuming and name-calling. And it scares me. I simply don't want to allow that to breed inside of me because I admit that I see my own weakness to it.

The other night, after coming home from another gathering where angry politics seemed to be the flavor of the day, I felt confused, unsettled & ugly inside. Questions were swimming around in my mind:
  • Shouldn't my relationship with God keep me from generalizations, from judging or labeling groups of people, having an in-crowd and an out-crowd, or an us-verses-them mentality?
  • Shouldn't my love for people allow me to truly listen to others' opinions and help them to feel safe, known and cared for? Why do political conversations always seems to offend, divide, assume & polarize?
  • What was really important to Jesus: Homosexuality? Abortion? Immigration? The Economy? War? How did He respond to the political questions of His time?
  • How can I live a life of love, acceptance & freedom and still interact with politics? Is there a way to do blend my spirituality and my ballot?
  • What issues are truly important to me? Why are so few of those issues ever discussed by either side?
During the angry political discussion I found myself trapped in (the one that led me to all those questions), a [politically passionate] friend exclaimed "I honestly don't know how anybody could still be undecided at this point in the election!" Chris & I looked at each other and smiled. He quietly said, "I am." The silence was deafening as roomful of shocked Democrats stared at him in disbelief (and if it was a different crowd, I'm sure Republicans would have been equally shocked). "There are a lot of issues that are important to me," he said " and I don't think either side fully represents all of them. I'm honestly torn." [Luckily, we escaped with our lives and our friendships in tact]

Let it be known that I have a great love for my country, and-- despite my sarcasm-- I truly believe it is my civic duty to be involved in politics (or at least to vote-- too bad I screwed up on that one!). Let it also be known that I am not blaming, accusing or claiming that everyone else is wrong, while I have found some magnanimous path to enlightenment.

My question is: What do I do when both sides have issues that I believe in and disagree with? What about those issues that no one is talking about? And, most importantly, can I live my life not being Blue or Red, but simply a follower of Jesus? Does that have to be a color?

In the Art World, Red and Blue make Purple. But I don't know if I want to be a blend. I think I would rather be something completely different-- like Black, maybe... the absence of color. Besides, Black is kind of different and rebellious, and sounds so politically correct. ;)


theothermelissa said...

I think I would like to be black with you. Your blog post just put into words all the things I've been feeling the past few months. And I like you am disenfranchised. I've been trying to re-register since 2000, but they want to know the address where I was last registered... and I had so many addresses in SB and I don't really remember any of them so I'm screwed. Anyway. Let's figure out what it's like to be black.

Anonymous said...

Boycott the industry!