I’m writing to you with a far different tone than usual. I am coming from a place of pleading and desperate hope that this election season will not divide us even further.
I’d like to consider the idea of Identity Politics. This can be defined in may ways and in the United States it is most often referring to the idea that people rely on their identity, their core values to guide their voting decisions.
For the sake of this post I am looking at Identity Politics in a different way. What I’m referring to is a person’s dogmatic affiliation and belief in a political party or candidate, so much so, that their affiliation becomes part of their identity. These are the people holding so tight to their politics, to disagree with their party would be like cutting off their own arm. They walk into their communities with politics as their armor and artillery ready to blast someone that dare disagree.
I am grateful to have grown up in a home that taught me to care about who I’m voting for and my responsibility to the future of this country. I take my citizenship seriously and know my daily actions are shaping this world. I am not saying people should not have strong beliefs. I am saying people should recognize when they’ve gone beyond political responsibility to choosing a party as part of their identity. I’m calling for integrity to win out above political loyalty.
To quote a favorite book by R.J. Palico, “When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind.”
Choosing Integrity First
Response to Bad Party Decisions or Political Behavior
When a politician or a political party makes a bad decision, Identity Politics swoops in to defend the party or leader without hesitation instead of holding the person accountable. To criticize the politician is to criticize one’s team and even one’s self. It is a pride game in saving face instead of reflection and contemplation. How can this possibly help our country to flourish?
Political Integrity knows better. When our spirit tells us a political leader or party made the wrong call, we can stop and say, “I do not support that choice.” It doesn’t mean you’ve disrespected the whole party or even your vote. It means you can see right from wrong instead of fighting for a party no matter the cost. Rarely do I find that I wholeheartedly agree with any one person or one party. Each has its flaws and we all have to make the best decisions we can. We have to prioritize our beliefs to determine our vote. When politicians fail, and they all do, I can respect the good decisions they’ve made while also holding them accountable for the bad.
Family, Relationships, Neighbors, and Community
Have you ever found yourself drawing a line in the sand, threatening to cut your family and neighbors out of your life because they vote differently? This is identity politics. If you once found good in these people, enough to share a conversation, help them with a project, invite them to dinner, or give them a birthday gift than they should still hold value in your life even if they vote differently.
Yes it matters who is voted into office. What also matters is how we treat the people around us. The real heart of this country comes from the small communities we live in. Our neighborhoods, schools, churches, and families make up our daily lives. Our actions and words can either build these people up or tear them down. We cannot forgo the health of our communities and families for the sake of winning an election. Can we please see beyond a person’s political party and judge them for how they treat other people? I urge you to care about your political beliefs, but please also care about your neighbor.
Since the beginning of our nation we have had good and bad presidents from all political parties in leadership. Some have made truly terrible decisions and others have fared better, but each one was flawed. Before and after these leaders our country carried on. Beyond the decisions of our leaders, we the people determine the fate of our country in our everyday interactions with our neighbors.
Consider the Parable of the Good Samaritan. When a man was attacked political and religious leaders walked by without helping. It was a Samaritan, at the time an outcast in Jewish society, who stopped to help.
“What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by robbers?”
“The one who treated him kindly,” the religion scholar responded.”
Jesus said, “Go and do the same.”Luke 10: 36 & 37 The Parable of the The Good Samaritan
Social Media Behavior
Born in 1988 I watched the evolution of the internet into our daily lives. Smart phones were just becoming popular when I was in college and at that time Facebook was still just for college students. This unique viewpoint allowed me time to grow up alongside the internet. It’s slow introduction into my life gave me time to consider it’s wonderful uses and it’s dangers. As I watch people today on social media I am often shocked by what they have chosen to post for the whole world to see. People who I have know my entire life, who have helped to teach me grace, kindness, and forgiveness are also the ones casually tossing out political insults on social media.
Our culture has made social media a political battleground where no rules of decency apply anymore. When people are casting insults, or shaming a person’s character because of the way they vote, we’ve gone too far.
If in person we act good and kind and respectful, than on the Internet we should follow those same principal, especially when we disagree with someone.
A political opinion voiced in society or posted on social media should not be an invitation to fight. Instead it is a chance to get curious and consider someone else’s opinion. Can we be decent and try to understand our neighbor? Put your armor and artillery down. Speak to have your opinion understood instead of shaming someone who disagrees. Reasonable people are not attacking your identity when they share a political opinion. Understand they feel strongly about a belief that is important to them and it happens to align with a political party. Some people may start speaking to you with guns blazing, but it does not mean you have to respond throwing grenades. Someone has to throw water on this fire instead of gasoline. Quench someone’s thirst with your political opinions, do not set them ablaze.
Questions to ask yourself before you share, post or speak.
- Is this intended to motive or shame?
- Am I sharing an important idea or am I hoping to ridicule?
- Are these facts real or hearsay? Can I prove it?
- Have I considered each point of view, or is this one sided?
- Am I sharing important truths, or am I being divisive?
Yes I hope my candidate wins, but more than that I care about the way I treat my neighbors, friends, and family. I care about understanding each other rather than throwing out another zinger that gains a point for my cause while ridiculing another.
Is it worth it to win a national election but have destroyed your community, your family, and your reputation?
At the end of my life I want my actions to be accountable to God. I want to be able to say I made choices for the good of His people, not just for the good of His people who happen to vote like me.
Please go forward in your life and make decisions that honor your political beliefs but also keep your integrity intact. Consider sharing this post if you carry the same hope, that we can be good citizens of this nation while also choosing to be kind.
If you’d like to read more about handling political conversations with integrity I suggest reading Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown. If I could, I would make it assigned reading to every adult in the USA.