History has fascinated me since childhood. I love to learn from the stories of real lives in biographies, autobiographies and memoirs.
As an elementary student, I sat on the edge of my seat listening to my principals, Prof Powers and Mr. Buchanan, tell us of their experiences in World War II and the Korean War in our classroom. Prof also told us about fighting in the Battle of Athens in my hometown. I sat wide eyed as they told of the draft and how it affected people. The enemy of the U.S. at the time was the U.S.S.R. (Russia) as we were knee deep in the Cold War. AIDS was the viral enemy that was exploding.
I was always blessed to have teachers that made history come alive. Their love of it was contagious, and it was best passed on through stories. I beat my parents down with questions about their history personally and the history of the world they experienced and lived in that was so much different than mine. They were born in 1934 and 1936, and I wanted to know all they remembered about World War II as a child. I also wanted to know how they met, what they were like, etc. I wanted to know about segregation. I wanted to know what it was like to live life in black and white–cause life only got color in the 60s right? I know I am not the only one who thought this as a kid.
War was a thing of the past. It was not a part of my childhood. In fact, I didn’t even know that politics could be contentious–it wasn’t a subject at our dinner table.
Then, 1991 happened. As a sophomore in high school, I remember leaving the Wednesday night youth group meeting and hearing the news that we were at war bombing Iraq. My whole foundation felt frail thinking that the U.S. was a part of a war. That was supposed to be history never to be lived again. I went home and watched CNN as Wolf Blitzer narrated bombings. Was this real life? Six weeks later we had a feeling of peace again as the conflict was “done.” As 16 year olds do, I got my license and focused on my friends and I didn’t think about it much after that.
Over the next decade, the Middle East and Terrorism grew in popularity on the national news after the “wall” had come down, but it was always a conflict not on our soil. I had this idea that Wars were fought other places and in other times. I was lulled by the privilege of being American.
Then September 11, 2001… I was in my school counseling office when my brand new husband called me to tell me to turn on the tv at 8:45 that morning. The principals and school resource officers and teachers sat with me in complete shock and terror as we saw the second plane crash into the World Trade Center…and then the whole thing fell…and then the Pentagon and the flight in Pennsylvania. The world really did stop. Our lives were on hold as we tuned into the 24 hour news cycle and heard story after story of lives lost and lives given and lives forever affected.
I can easily say that the week after the 11th might have been the last time I FELT our country was unified as a community of people. People began to have stark reactions to the war in Afghanistan and then in Iraq. There was no social media to bolster the arguments and polarize, but there was still rhetoric and fear. What was “over there,” now became personal. We saw people’s lives affected deeply. We held our breath to see where and when the next attack would come. We did not have a six week war as in 1991, we were entrenched in places for long long periods with no clean boundaries.
Back when Bill Clinton was running for office, I sat at a lunch table as a senior in high school uncomfortable with political debate, but I did not know how civil it was! Then, we switch parties in the white house and people hated on George W. during his presidency. I thought that was stinging. Then, the hate and distrust on the other side went to Obama. It was a lauding as a savior or hating like they were the anti-christ depending upon which side of the aisle you claimed. Like a tennis match back and forth, but the crowd got rowdier with each cycle of presidency. The polarization grew more and more and the ability to have civil conversations with people grew less and less–thank you Twitter and Facebook and smart phones.
And then, 2016. That election cycle made me want to quit life on social media AND tv.
2016 is when we went full on throw-the-civility-respect-logic-out-the-window civil war mode in our country. It’s like people scream at each other with their ears plugged. Polarization–far right ALT Right and far left ANTIFA and different levels of polarization in between. It is like people have to up the stakes and say you are not progressive or conservative “enough.” Living in the middle is hard,and it feels downright impossible at times. Things have become so politicized that we literally get nowhere except more inflamed in battle with one another.
Then, 2020. Let’s take a minute for a moment of silence and prayer. Hold onto your seats, put on your breathing apparatus (God forbid not a mask:)) and tend to your youngin’s. The election is not the top headline this year, but politics is certainly at the forefront. “Golly bum, come soon 2021” (that’s my campaign slogan that I would use).
Kanye West is running for president and that is the least far fetched thing I can share about our reality for 2020. Remembering back to my childhood when I was blissfully unaware of politics compared to everything I do or say being categorized politically by others in 2020. Walk into a store with a mask on (well, before a week ago), and people on my side of town looked at me like I was an idiot. It’s the first time ever that I have been given the liberal moniker. All I am trying to do is to do the best for my family and their health (especially my husband), and I am trying to love and respect others on their individual journeys knowing that EVERYONE is struggling and not their best selves. No matter WHERE you step, you get blown up or step on someone else’s toes.
Whether we individually chose it or not, the war is here. The biggest war we are facing as a country is on our soil with our neighbors. There are powers that be and news cycles and rhetoric and people doing evil things–this is not new to the human condition.
The truth? We all have evil in our own hearts. We naturally look to our needs first. We want to be the center of the world and for all things to work for our good. We want to be right. Our hearts and our feelings deceive us. If we do not examine the war within, we will destroy ourselves and others around us. Pointing fingers is getting us amazing results, huh?
Whether you are crusading for a socialist nation to help and to protect others or crusading for the free markets to help others and to protect our freedoms, you have issues in your heart that are not solved by politics or government. Until we realize that we deceive ourselves, we will not be able to connect with respect with others. Realizing this brings a humility as we look at others. It brings us to see that others are struggling just as we are, and it allows us to treat others with grace and mercy. We begin to demonize others less. We begin to listen instead of seeking to feed confirmation bias over and over and over.
An election or a government does not solve racism or classism or bring peace and prosperity. Now, can chosen leadership through election make some of those things worse? absolutely.
I am a citizen of the United States of America, and I am afforded freedoms that I do not deserve and that I did not fight for. I am afforded an opportunity to vote for leaders instead of being in a dictatorship. However, my hope is not in earthly leaders.
I think we can all say that these last few months are a picture to us that we have LIMITED understanding and scope on our own. Every leader in the world and in organizations all over the world does not have the answers or the wisdom to make the perfect decision. We happen to be in a very unprecedented modern time. How many “unprecedented times” have we cycled through in the world? Um, a lot. History shows us human frailty. History shows us struggle and evil and wars. Each of us has a battle within us, and NONE of us is without hypocrisy. We see leaders of our country who did important things yet owned slaves, great theologians that clarified gospel truths had racist thoughts and rants, politicians who were swayed by power plays, ministers who led well who struggled with sexual sin… every single one of us has blind spots. If we demonize one, we should also be willing to demonize ourselves.
Whether I lived in China, India, Pakistan, Venezuela, Sweden, Canada or the U.S.A., my outward realities and freedoms might look different, but the reality of my heart and my identity is a daughter of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. I am a citizen of a Kingdom where hope and peace and love and justice and truth and beauty reign. On my own, I can only see my own needs and perspective. Made new in Jesus, I can rest that I do not have to prove myself. I can learn of my frailties and have hope for change In HIm. I also can look with Him at my blind spots–sometimes those are pointed out by others. Because of Grace, I do not have to have a defensive stance (though sometimes that comes out as I wrestle with the truth). Because of His great love, I can listen to someone who is very different from me and see where I have hurt them or where I am wrong or where I have simply been living unaware of the needs of others.
Speaking to Christians: When we simply live the political party line (whichever side you are on), we are missing a lot of people in the Kingdom. We are missing opportunities for the Gospel to welcome others into a Kingdom with an inheritance that will never perish, spoil or fade. May we come together in humility and with much grace.