I've just received another e-mail from one of the political parties asking for money. Apparently I signed up for e-alerts some time ago, and periodically I receive notices letting me know what's happening in the party. I signed up to receive these e-notices because I was (and am) interested in what's happening in political leadership in my nation, in my state, and in my local municipality. I'm not sure, though, that I really want to know any more.
Before I articulate my misgivings, let me make something clear. I am not, and have never been, a member of a political party. For my entire voting life, I've always made a point of deciding how to vote based on what the issues are and how the people who are running address those issues. Having said that, I must also confess that I lean politically more toward one direction than toward the other, and on some issues I lean pretty far. In fact, once I had a conversation with a friend who leans pretty far to the other direction. It was fun to discover that, for completely different reasons, we came to the same conclusions ~ we didn't meet in the middle; it seems like we met around the back side. But I digress.
Because I lean more toward one direction than the other, and because I was particularly interested in what one candidate for office was saying a few years ago, I signed up for the e-mail messages. I always expected that I would be asked for financial contributions, and that's fine ... I can ignore those pretty easily. But what I've seen in recent e-alerts has disturbed me. Maybe they've always been like this, and I haven't paid enough attention, but it still bothers me.
This is how recent e-mails have seemed to read: Our party is good; the other party is bad; we have good ideas; the other party doesn't have any ideas besides keeping our party from doing good things; the other party has lots of money; if you want the good party to keep the bad party from making your life terrible, give the good party some money.
I only receive e-mails from one party, but I do listen on occasion to talk radio from both sides. And every time I read the news, I make sure to read the news from both perspectives. I can say with complete confidence that one party does not have the upper hand over the other in name calling and in vindictiveness, which is what it seems like our political system has been reduced to.
It seems like we're not willing to even entertain the idea that someone with whom we disagree might have something valuable to contribute to the conversation. It seems like we believe that recognizing the validity of a different perspective will completely invalidate our own. And it seems like we believe that if a person disagrees with us, there is nothing redeeming about that person.
I reject these beliefs. They are harmful to our collective life, and are antithetical to my beliefs as a Christian. See, I don't have to believe the same thing as you do to recognize you as a child of G-d, created just as much in the image of the divine as I am. I don't have to be part of the same political party as you are to sit at a table with you for dinner, whether it's a lavish dinner party or casseroles at a church potluck or simple bread and wine from a shared plate and cup.
My voice is not much, and doesn't reach very far beyond my seven readers ~ but I would like to call us out of our insular bubbles of like-minded-ness and into real conversation with real people about our real differences of opinion. I don't mean the shouting matches that are already happening, but real conversations where we see the person on the other side of the opinion (other side of the aisle) as a real person instead of a set of opinions which need to be debunked.
And maybe, before we have a real conversation, we could eat together.