Sunday, July 28, 2013

(Political) Apathy vs. Self-Preservation

Sometime after the bombing at the Boston Marathon my Mom emailed my sisters and me to ask for our perspective on the event. Denise sent back a thoughtful response that helped me articulate my thoughts in that she included a note to the effect that for some, out of a sense of self-preservation cannot watch the news. Well many months later, I am finally ready to provide, a now public, response that accepts/admits that I am a person who must shield myself from inundation in the news of the day. Yet I fear that self-preservation is construed or perceived as apathy. Am I apathetic? Absolutely Not. Am I pissed off at the political landscape in this country? Absolutely!

Let's start with the events in Boston. I work for the national office of the Samaritan Ministry. We are comprised of 78 incorporated Centers in 28 States and Tokyo, Japan. More often than not when there is a disaster or event in one of these places, our people are either directly affected or providing help to those who were, e.g. the tsunami in Japan and the bombings in Boston. In fact we have two Centers in Boston, one of which was in direct proximity to the bomb site, and the other one had employees who were participating in the Marathon. So more often than not my first thought/prayers go to those people that I know. Then they go to the people who were involved that I will never know or meet. I am sickened by the tactics of the bombers. I cannot fathom the level of hatred required to carry out such an action against people they have never met, and thus could not have done anything directly to them. Of course hatred is not an emotion I was encouraged to feel - I will always remember my Grandmom telling me that I could not possibly "hate" anyone. 

What I do understand, however, is my own personal growing frustration toward the current political landscape in this country. We currently live in incredibly polarizing times, and I worry how the United States cannot sustain itself in any healthy form if we continue this way. I am not a combative, confrontational person by nature, and so it is difficult for me to express my political beliefs especially when any opinion seems to be taken to the nth degree, especially if it is opposition to the listener's personal beliefs. Although I have been known to make an exception, such as my pride in being part of the 58% of Americans who believe that same sex couples should have the right to marry. I firmly believe that same-sex marriage is my generation's civil rights movement. It still horrifies me to think that in 2013 there is still discrimination in any form in a country that prides itself on diversity and equal rights for all. 

I have been thinking a lot about politics lately. It may have something to do with the fact that the bill to lower student loan interest rates did not even make it out of the Senate after it was struck down by Republican opposition. I am sorry gentlemen, but you are not helping your cause/reputation as the "old white man's party." This is a bill that directly affects me and millions of other people of my generation. I was ranting about that one for over a week - again here comes that self-preservation piece as I can raise my blood pressure all on my own, thank you. 

Perhaps it is also because the worship services of the Presbyterian Youth Triennium that I attended the week before last were underscored with personal reactions to the verdict rendered by the trial in the George Zimmerman case. While I did not personally disgaree with their stance, in my humble opinion this political undertone had no business being in this place of worship. I remain a staunch believer in the separation of church and state, which I assure you does go beyond my love of James Madison. I have been trying to pinpoint when/why politics became polarizing in a way that must be remnant of other times in American History, the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, Isolationist beliefs preceding World War II, Civil Rights/Segregation, etc. Perhaps I am naive, but the first election I really recall being aware of was late in elementary school with George H.W. Bush running against Bill Clinton. I have a vivid memory of Ross Perot running as a third candidate before dropping out then re-entering the race. I highly doubt that if Facebook existed at that time there would be as much political fodder filling people's news-feeds as they do now. For instance, I recently found a Facebook group called, "We Survived Bush, You will survive Obama." Since when did Presidential terms became a matter of survival? 

I often wonder if the Election of 2000 had turned off differently, if the terms "hanging chad" were not permanently embedded in political terminology what would our country look like today? Please do not misunderstand me, I am not blaming everything, or even anything, on President Bush or the Republican Party; I just see that election as a real turning point in this country's political landscape. Do the Democrats have all the answers? Of course not! Do Republicans? Nope! 

I am simply a firm believer that there needs to be a shift toward a more bi-partisan political approach for the United States to begin repairing the partisan mess that has been created and even cultivated in the last number of years. I know to some I may be seen as wild-eyed liberal, but in all honesty I consider myself to be a left-leaning moderate. I believe in moderation - find a compromise by taking a little bit from each side or as Jimmy Cliff said back in the 1960s, "Give a little, take a little."

In the meantime, I will continue to do my part as a American Citizen by voting, and speaking up as in my own way as I see fit. Not with the hope, or even intention, of swaying anyone's opinion as I think that is a big part of why we are in this pickle in the first place. I merely feel the need to remind people that self-preservation and apathy are not interchangeable or even synonymous. 

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