On the cusp of Election day, my thoughts have found their way to a question that I can’t seem to ignore. How does it happen, that we should be in such unfulfilling work as that of perceiving neighbors as enemies? Maybe they asked for it by placing a campaign sign in their yard. Maybe they were pushing the rest of us who don’t share their political opinions by drawing such brave deep lines along the surveyed boarders of landscaped hedges and picket fences.
It is inescapable, this feeling that we have become okay with the venomous air surrounding election time. We see the campaign sign and immediately draw the most extreme negative caricature of beliefs that would provoke such a poor choice of political support. We do not draw such good conclusions about our neighbors when the signs begin to sprout up. And in the end, we make enemies of those who are neighbors.
There is an art to civilized engagement about politics. It is the kind of art that is born out of severe disciplined love. Only love can remove the defensive posture of apposing opinions. Only love can settle a person in their own skin deeply enough to allow them to lift their heels and be teachable all the while standing in the trenches of a significant political discussion.
We do love our tension though. We need it. It makes us feel like the story is going somewhere when the tension is greatest. In another few months, after the political stickers have begun to peel and fold from the winter weather, and the signs have all been plucked back out of the hard earth, and a leader is cozily reading in the Oval office, we will see past the amplified filter of the two party system, and notice that there are some endearing commonalities about our neighbor-enemies. We will find that life is more than votes or legislature, and we will have the perspective that currently eludes us. We are all in the same garden, meant to grow together, flowers and weeds alike. We are all watered by the same storms and brightened by the same sun. We are not so different in the things that truly matter. And even if we are different, we are still called to love well.
I look forward to recognizing the community of people I have been coerced into thinking represent something alien or dangerous or toxic, and enjoying a laugh, or a story or a meal with them. I am reminded of a song that says, “We are one but we are not the same.” And another song that says, “We are one in the spirit we are one in the Lord.” Both are true. And both represent something currently hidden in the fog of politics.
Go vote, and then join with me in the messy business of turning back toward each other in anticipation of being once again neighbors.