Feb 012013 9 Responses

If This Is True, It Will Blow Your Mind

There is only one problem: most politicians I know are good people who love their country and are trying to make a difference.

The story I want to write is that politicians are evil. They are greedy, self-centered, disconnected from every day life, and care about nothing but their own careers.

This story is convenient. It makes life easy on me.

Believing my own story, I can curse politicians, take no personal responsibility for our social problems, and claim life would be better if I were in charge.

There is only one problem: my personal experience with politicians does not match the story I tell myself.

When “they” become specific people, my opinions change.

  • I see the President with his wife and children and notice a love similar to my love for my family.
  • I hear Secretary of State Kerry boldly speak for a jailed pastor in Iran.
  • I interact with Rep. Steve Womack and find a concerned ear.
  • I correspond with Senator John Boozman and get a thoughtful response.
  • I email questions to State Senators and get immediate responses answering my questions.
  • I meet city officials and discover a shared faith.

The story that politicians are evil machines ruining our country is convenient, but its wrong. It doesn’t match with our actual experience of the individuals. It might make sense as we look from afar and wonder what “they are doing,” but it doesn’t align with the actual people we know—John, Steve, and the like.

Politicians are not evil, but it is hard to deny that our politics seem broken. If it’s not their fault, what is wrong? If the story I have told myself is untrue, what is the true story? 

What if another story is true?

  • What if these are complicated times?
  • What if there are not perfect answers?
  • What if good, intelligent people can draw completely different conclusions about an issue?
  • What if the answer that I think is most obvious is totally wrong?
  • What if no matter what a politician does, people will lie and misrepresent his/her actions in order to get them defeated?

The problem with the story we tell ourselves about politicians is that it is too convenient for us and too unfair for them. Anytime we reduce a group of people to “them,” we have likely oversimplified a problem.

So what do we do?

We try to tell ourselves the truth.

Some politicians are bad, but not all of them.

Some of our opinions are right, but not all of them.

Some of our opponents are wrong, but not all of them.

We must embrace the complexity of life and see solutions, always understanding perfection is beyond our grasp. Even our best solutions will have negative consequences. Even our best actions might end up completely wrong.

We must have reasonable expectations of public servants. We must work with them and for them in finding solutions. We must be discerning in understanding not just their votes but their reasoning behind votes. We must refuse the simplistic answers campaign smear ads tell us.   

We must be fair. Fair to our politicians. Fair to our opponents. Fair to our friends and our enemies. We must debate, but we must debate fairly.

We tell ourselves our politicians are evil and that simple story makes life bearable. It removes any personal responsibility and allows us to sit back and blame others for everything that goes wrong. It is a great story, but it’s wrong. It is a fun story, but it’s destroying us. It’s time we find a better explanation for our current plight.

If we thought it was “their” fault and we were wrong, is it possible that we are to blame? 

9 Responses to If This Is True, It Will Blow Your Mind
  1. […] course all evidence points to the opposite. Washington is not full of bad people (although there are... kevinathompson.com/discourage-christians-politics

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