Again, in reflecting on the factors that have shaped me, who I was and who I wanted to become, politics keeps coming up. In high school I was one of the most obnoxious Republican pundits you could ever want to meet: "I'll give you 12 reasons Rush Limbaugh should be president..." yup.
In college I had a newspaper column called "You Know I'm Right." And I meant RIGHT.
I'd rather be a hippie, but I'm far too uptight and gentrified by this point in my life. One can always try, however...
To the right is a silly grid from Facebook on political leanings. Sort of sums it up. I believe in taking care of others, even those who would abuse my generosity. I believe in sharing my power, and even giving it up for the sake of compassion. I believe that most of my current middle-class lifestyle is thanks not to my own efforts or cleverness, but to my luck in being born a straight, white male in a comfortable middle class family in a neighborhood with reasonably good schools and access to opportunities others do not have. I was born during a time where I was not threatened by a military draft, or invasion from neighboring countries or imperial tyranny. In fact, I was born into an era of such rampant wealth that gluttony, spending and consumption are socially acceptable addictions.
I am not a self-made-man. I am a lucky man. I am a comfortable man.
Anyway, I'm off track again... politics. Yes. I find myself caught up in the political game, now on the opposite end of the spectrum from where I started. I wanted to be more of a cynic - I wanted to be neutral - A New Kind of Christian (right?) - but the temptations of principalities and powers is strong. The charisma of politicians, and the allure of politics, is captivating. And even quite self-consciously, I find much to admire in figures like Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and Barack Obama. I still admire them. I still have hope that their abilities can make a positive difference in the world - even as I am aware that they are parts of the same machine that Ron Paul, Dick Cheney, Mitch McConnell and Sarah Palin are gears and cogs in. It IS a suicide machine, that can only have its destructive effects turned down, never off. So I guess I merely pray the machine can be turned down - which is an awfully modest, even pathetic prayer.
But this is a very different critique from Tea Partiers and Libertarians who carry a utopian vision of an ungoverned or almost ungoverned society. I believe history clearly reveals this ideology as a fantasy, fueled by the temptations of self-determined greed.
As I listen on the radio and read in the news of all the righteous indignation from the political right over the inadequacies of the left, I become more frustrated and disillusioned with the ability of our system to get anything right. Because they are the same critiques that came from the left in 2006 and 2008, that for a short time REVOLUTIONIZED American politics... from Right to Left. So now the pendulum swings back, and the masses have learned absolutely nothing.
As I've said before, I hate Matrix analogies, but it's fitting here: the machine is letting us fight ourselves to give us the illusion that we are getting somewhere. In the end, the machine crushes us again and again and again, but every time, we thing we're playing a different game. We thing this time will be different. We think that if we knock on enough doors and make enough phone calls, we can make lasting change. But the machine is run by the powerful - the monied - multinational corporations, big oil, weapons and defense, the list goes on...
All right. I'm rambling.
I will keep voting. I will keep voting a liberal agenda - one characterized by compassion and social justice. But I am not so naive as to think that the voting process itself changes people.
I believe LOVE is the antidote to the machine. It is the rust that clings to its gears, that oxidizes and disintegrates its moving parts, rendering it ineffective. I believe love moved the Civil Rights and Suffrage Movements. I believe that movement can and must continue now. Our hippie parents were co-opted by the numbing comfort of suburban safety - and who can blame them? But we have to pick the torch back up. We have to continue a movement that is countercultural and raises up the outcasts and the marginalized. We have to fight for peace and hope and equality in a world owned by ownership; a society purchased by purchases; a culture that has sold its soul to sales. All of these factors blind us to the Suicide Machine that poisons our ocean with oil, that robs our children of nutrition, that rapes our land of its natural state, and that allows MTV reality shows to continue on in all their horrid plasticity!
I've got Peter, Paul & Mary's song "Light One Candle" stuck in my head:
Light one candle for the Maccabee children
Give thanks their light didn't die;
Light one candle for the pain they endured
When their right to exist was denied;
Light one candle for the terrible sacrifice
Justice and freedom demand;
light one candle for the wisdom to know
When the peacemaker's time is at hand!
Don't let the light go out,
It's lasted for so many years!
Don't let the light go out!
Let it shine through our love and our tears!
Light one candle for the strength that we need
To never become our own foe;
Light one candle for those who are suff'ring
The pain that we learned long ago;
Light one candle for all we believe in,
That anger not tear us apart;
And light one candle to bind us together
With peace as the song in our heart!
What is the memory that's valued so highly
That we keep it alive in that flame?
What's the commitment to those who have died?
We cry out "they've not died in vain,"
We have come this far, always believing
That justice will somehow prevail;
This is the burden and This is the promise,
This is why we will not fail!
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