It’s election day… at long last… finally. Tension and discourse evaporating tomorrow? Hardly, I suspect. My ideological bent is no secret to anyone who even peripherally knows me. This post, however, is not about my particular political views. I’ve ranted, shared, and linked sufficiently on Facebook, twitter, and other such soap box venues about my righteous views. And therein lies my quandary- my all fired up sense of righteousness. Righteousness is defined as conduct that is morally right or justifiable; virtuous. Yes, virtuous. Sure, I’m a veritable Mother Theresa, I’m so virtuous. Not! I have been exceedingly judgmental of people whose views don’t match up with mine.
I attended a service Sunday at a charming chapel at the lovely Winter Park campus of Rollins College. Katrina Jenkins, Dean of Religious Life at the college, led the conversation about love. She cited passages in Deuteronomy and the Gospels referencing what have been called the greatest of commandments:
“Shema Yisrael (Hear Oh Israel) The Lord is One; Thou shalt love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind”, and the second, “Thou shalt love your neighbor as yourself.” And don’t do it half way, she admonished.
Sermons are typically no more than 15-20 minutes in our faith tradition so my self-examination was brief but nevertheless revealing and I was more than a little chagrined. How could I have possibly loved my neighbor as myself when I considered myself to be politically and civically superior?
I feel like this is déjà vu all over again. I behaved in much the same manner during the 2016 election cycle. I thought way back then I had not encountered such a lack of civility. It feels even more intense this year. We have all retreated to our bubbles of sameness, choosing to associate with people of the same color, ethnicity, religion and political views. I confess to my culpability on this front as well. I don’t think there is anyone among my “friends” on Facebook with whom I disagree.
As if the “Love Thy Neighbor” message needed reinforcing, I watched a newly recorded episode of CBS Sunday Morning featuring Zach Mayo and Lucy Rogers a Republican and a Democrat competing aggressively for a State Representative seat in northern Vermont. Following a debate at their local library the two did something quite unprecedented. They performed a guitar and cello duet together. No one, not even the moderator of the debate knew what was in store. The song was about a deep yearning for a less competitive society. There was not a dry eye in the audience following their performance.
“It was sweet and kind and marked a turning point for us”, said one woman. “It gave me a lot of hope” said another, “It was what we really needed.”
Many front yards in this community are now sporting both candidates’ signs.
Sitting in the chapel I resolved to reach out to a few people whose ideologies are different than my own and try treating them with respect and dignity, recognizing our mutual humanity. I want to behave more like Mr. Rogers than this woman:
Let’s toast our democracy and the fact early vote turnout has been historic. (And, of course, I hope “my side” wins. Stop it Liz! I didn’t say this process would be easy but we need to try.)