Primary elections are today. Are you excited? You should be.
Politicians and government often get little respect; even the good ones. Some of the disrespect is rightly earned; the natural consequences of selfishness and greed displayed by men and women who swore to faithfully represent the people who elected them by good example and honesty. However, I think much of the disrespect we-the-people give our elected government is just plain, ugly, and lazy cynicism.
When I complain, it is usually a drive-by, thoughtless criticism. A trusted leader (or at least someone who should be a trusted leader) does something I disagree with or does something truly wrong and I just blurt out, “Oh that good for nothing what’s-his-name! How could he do such a thing. If I were in that position I surely would have made the common sense decision. What a bum!” Then I browse through the morning news and find someone else who shares my opinion. Not only someone like me, but a person of credential and prestige, a bona-fide reporter, a man or woman of the world. Oh boy, someone of class and experience agrees with me. I knew I was right!
And then, a little bit of empathy smacks me on the head. I see that no good, dirty, villainous government agent as I should, I see him as my neighbor. A fellow wanderer of this world, searching for the same light I too so desperately need. The next thing I know, the grace so freely given to me starts to react and rise inside my heart and that still small voice reminds me that the scoundrel I’m shaking my fist at is human too. A man or woman who needs my prayers not my betrayal. For to give up on this thing we call a Republic is to betray my fellow citizen and my God.
If I simply join in the rampant cynicism we mistakenly call “just-being-honest” or whatever party label we want to attach, then I abandon my privilege granted to me by the Constitution of this country, and I might as well spit on all the good and noble things my grandparents and their parents did before me. Not just the “Greatest Generation” but those before them; even those tilling the soil of this country long before the dawn of 1776. If I refuse to vote solely on the grounds of “the whole system is rigged and pointless”, then I’m telling my government leaders, my local neighbors, my kids, my family and my friends, “I don’t care about you or anyone. Just do what you want and leave me alone.” For the essence of American politics is caring; caring for my family and my neighbor and all of those who make this country a Country: past, present, and future. Yet, if I resort to the popular “leave me alone” tactic, the more scary thing occurs: they will do what they want, but they certainly won’t leave me alone. I just perpetuate the bad government I love to criticize.
I also abandon my God. God is not American nor does he root for any particular flag the way we do. Yet he does desire and expect us, those of us who want to do good or think we are doing good, to pray for our leaders (check out Romans chapter 13 and 1 Timothy chapter 2 in the Bible for more on this). I pray for our leaders in the same manner and for the same reason I would pray for myself…I need it! God help me (and God stop me) when I try to be the chief master and expert of this thing called life. You want to know the personality traits shared among all the bad and evil people of history (yes even those villains who welded the banner of the Christianity)? It’s simple. They thought they held all of the answers in their wee little brains. They arrogantly thought and declared that they were the answer to all of life’s problems. Through them, and only them, is salvation found.
American elections remind me of two things. One, I live in a country in which I have some kind of voice in how my country operates and succeeds (which also means I play a part in how it fails). Even if it were true, as the cynics declare, that “it’s just one vote, so what difference does it make”, that one vote and the actual difference it does make is WAY better than living in a country where the great intellects and social gurus known as the government shove a gun to my head or steal my property if I even think about thinking of disagreeing with them.
Two, the men and women who are crazy enough to enter the arena of modern politics, in which their personal lives (the true and the lies) are at the mercy of a 24/7 news media and any other person with a blog, need my prayer and support. The good ones need encouragement to continue and need feedback on what is wise, what works, and what is not working and the bad ones need a similar encouragement to get wise and if possible to get out. Both of these take a genuine courage that is sadly difficult to learn in this modern age.
“But it’s just one vote and they won’t listen to me anyways”, you say. I know, it’s a hard lie to abandon and a difficult reality to accept. But before I quip “Get off your butt and vote”, I’ll leave you with this: when I ran for Colstrip City Council as a relatively unknown write-in with no political experience, I beat a well respected, regularly active, and long time resident by two or three votes. Two or three people who could have whined that their meager little vote (designed by some of the greatest political minds in world history, by the way) didn’t matter and could have stayed home or ignored the great privilege known as voting day, but they didn’t. And an unknown, wanna be politician got the humble opportunity to represent his neighbors, family and friends.
Remember, politics is hard and not for the faint of heart, the cynics or the lazy. It takes guts and courage. Not everyone needs to be a politician, but everyone needs to ensure the process works; through the good and the bad times. Now, stop your belly aching, no matter how justified it is, and get off your butt and vote.