This piece will run immediately following the election. I wonder what everyone will do with their revolt, their angst when there is no opposing candidate to target? What hate will be left to tweet, what positions left to loudly defend? A pastor friend says the disease of the American middle class is this anger churning just below the surface, eating our souls, and inviting us to numb it away. This election peeled away the layers exposing that anger, letting the seething discontentment with our comfortable lives ooze. In turn, we blame the open wounds on our neighbor, placing fault anywhere but at our own feet.
Recently, there was a panel discussion on the epidemic of opiate abuse in our county. Dauphin County Coroner Graham Hetrick asked a question beyond the symptoms, getting to the heart of the matter. "Why in the history of mankind, the freest and richest society in the world has a large part of its population trying to anesthetize itself to the point they can no longer breathe?" Perhaps it's this rage against all that's wrong, once provoking us to stand for something that's right. Now all but snuffed out, there is only a dull trance of disillusionment that remains. And we try to buy or drink or busy our way from remembering. We rally and hope a political superhero will lead us to enlightenment. We conform to the comfortable.
Muhammed Ali rebuked conformity. The boxing elite stripped him of his titles, the world spewed hate at his values, and he spoke unwaveringly, "I don't have to be what you want me to be. I'm free to be what I want." When our hope is built on foundations stronger than political platforms, we are indeed free to be what we want. Or better, free to whom we've been created to become.
Vin Scully, iconic baseball broadcaster, gave a commencement address that was profoundly simple. "The world will try very hard to clutter your lives and minds,' Scully told [the students], but the way forward was to simplify and clarify. 'Leave some pauses and some gaps so that you can do something spontaneously rather than just being led by the arm. Don't let the winds blow your dreams away... or steal your faith in God." (Sports Illustrated, May, 2016). Our political season is indeed very noisy. I pray the winds of rhetoric don't blow away our remnants of hope, faith, and trust.
I'm disappointed when I have to filter the political ads my children watch on TV because of the content. I'm saddened that my wife and I have to explain to them the complexities of having to cast a vote for something bigger than just a single candidate, because we find it difficult to support either person given their childish antics. Yet, we don't want our kids to rage against the machine.
We recently named a new pastor at our church. His acceptance speech was modest. He said he was humbled. He said he was excited to serve alongside this church family. He said we'd disagree at times, but that we'd learn to navigate through our differences in a loving way. He said he'd try, imperfectly, to be as faithful to us and to God as God has been to him.
Perhaps this is our way forward, post-election. May we be humble. May we be excited to serve alongside one another. May we approach disagreements with grace. And may we try, imperfectly, to be faithful to ourselves, to God, and to our country - as He has been to us.