Sorry, But I Don’t Hate Mitt Romney

flickr: mafleen

This past weekend, I had the privilege of spending 36 hours in Ohio. Apparently they are getting a good deal of presidential election attention. In fact, I came “this” close to being at a joint Paul Ryan Rally and Pumpkin Chucking event.

Good times in Ohio. I am sure the election season can’t be over soon enough for my Ohio friends.

While I was there I had a good talk with a friend about what seems to be a genuine HATRED of President Obama. I realize that during election season there is always some level of mud-slinging and personal attacks, but the tone this year feels different than just trying to sway voters. This year it feels like the disdain and hate of Barack Obama is clogging up whatever free-flow of public debate that was left. I almost don’t care about why the hate seems to be so strong and I am not so naive to think we can all “just get along,” but I do think this tone has to be challenged and we must all refrain from stoking the fires of hate.

This past week, with my “People really HATE Barack Obama” antenna up, I clicked on an article, Fear and loathing in campaign 2012: As patriarchal, Christian dominance fades demographically, its backlash politics have only become more vicious by Arthur Goldwag, author of Cults, Conspiracies, and Secret Societies.

…the kind of hatred that I’m talking about goes way beyond ordinary politics and deep into the realm of abnormal psychology. In its full-blown manifestations, it is akin to what an ophidiophobe feels at the sight of a snake: visceral and existential; categorical and absolute. It turns on the gut certainty that your adversaries aren’t looking just to raise your taxes but to destroy your whole way of life: that they are not only wrongheaded, but preternaturally evil. Comparatively few people experience these feelings on a conscious level, but they lie latent in many more of us than we might suspect.

Now I have been pretty clear that I am not a Romney Supporter. I would say that I am an Obama supporter, with a soft spot for Stein. And while I vehemently disagree with what Romney stands for on marriage equalityimmigration, government programs, etc. and think his election would be horrible for the United States in so many ways, I can honestly say that I do not hate him. In fact, I am one of those people that does not hate anyone. Be it political, professional, or personal, hate is a waste of my breath, a waste of my energy and a dishonor to God.

  • I don’t hate the girl who dumped me in high school.
  • I don’t hate the colleague who I think is incompetent.
  • I don’t hate George W. Bush, who I believe a horrendous President.
  • I don’t hate the person who beat me as a child.
  • I don’t hate the man who shot and killed my brother-in-law.

Disappointed in, angry with, livid towards, offended by, yes, but hateful towards another?

Never.

Hate is a powerful driving force and when repeatedly called upon, it strips us all of our humanity. As a parent, I do not forbid saying the word, but its use never goes unchallenged by a conversation with my children about what they are feeling. Call it hippie-talk, “politically correct” or whatever, but I believe that actions driven by hatred have allowed us to one-dimensionalize one another and our apathy towards it is tearing our culture and our country apart.

Hate in personal or professional situations has its own set of problems, but in politics hate renders us unable to separate the human being from the politician. One can hate and fight against what someone does or believes, but to hate the human being behind those things is a dangerous place to be for us a individuals or as a country. When hate invades our politics we begin to create legislation based upon assumptions and understandings that are not driven on a deep understanding of complex issues, but upon how we want to culturally and institutionally hold captive the other.

I understand that at this point, folks who are going to vote against Barack Obama are not going to change their minds. All I am hoping for is that, in the pursuit of the common good, our decisions on election day and beyond are made based on disagreement about the issues and not hatred of the individual. For when hate is the lens through which we view the world and form our policies, a cycle of reciprocated hatred by those who are targeted will undoubtedly be the outcome.

When we hate we all lose, no matter who gets elected.

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The Role of Satire, Snark and Sarcasm in Building Community

Photo by ganesha.isis on Flickr

Short answer: there is none.

I recently stumbled upon a Les Miserables inspired video parody  in support of a Barack Obama’s second term. I have obvously shared my support of President Obama in the past, but a lesser-known thing about me is that I loves me some Broadway Musicals: In the Heights, Rent, The Book of Morman and Les Miserables being some of my favorites. President Obama AND Jean Valjean together, yes sir, may I have some more. So not only did I click on over and watch it, but soon found out that I am one-degree of separation from one of the performers.

Anyhoo, here is a sample from One Term More, a video parody of One Day More from Les Miserables

One Term More!

With laws that let ‘em stand their ground,
Republicans are locked & loaded.

Contraception’s now a sin,
Screwing G.M. in the clutch.
Incivility’s a virtue,
Homophobic. Out of touch.
Filibusters. Budget scrums.
Ultrasounds & speculums.
To the Dark Side they’ve succumbed.

After I watched One Term More, even though I thought the lyrics were witty, the satire right on and I generally supported the politics behind the creation of it, I was left with more than a little discomfort. It was the same kind of discomfort that I get when friends of mine in the religious community post pictures, quotes and updates that - to those with whom we find agreement – may be powerful, prophetic and or giggle-inducing, do little to build up community across the chasms of theology, ideology or politics.

Yeah, I know the smart-ass photo captions are funny and I’m a Debbie Downer.

Now before anyone accuses me of dismissing the power of satire on culture, I do not disagree. Thoughtful satire, witty snark and timely sarcasm can be powerful forces, but it seems that in today’s uber-connected and politically charged climate these tactics serve mostly to galvanizing communities already in agreement in order to be a force against the enemy and they do very little to help build bridges of reconciliation, relationships and commonality. I am willing to be pushed on this, but I simply do not believe bridges are built with snark, satire and sarcasm and I would bet that most satirist are not really interested in reconciliation with those whom they are satirizing.

But it feels so good and makes me happy . . . cue Sheryl Crow.

In no way am I above this, as I too have leaned on what I think is funny in order to take a swipe at someone with whom I disagree. It can be cathartic and, truthfully, when you hit a snark-homer, it feels awesome . . . and when friends retweet, share, comment, etc affirming said awesomeness, all the better. But here is where I experience the tention: as a person of faith, a pastor, one who is committed to the building up of community, I am held to a different standard than the rest of the world. I can be all up in the political battles, but I can choose to engage with a different posture and see the landscape through a different lens. Sure, I want to “win the day” but more importantly, I want human relationships, all human relationships, not just my ideological kindred, to be built up and not further torn apart.

I am not calling on a widespread boycott of all the ironic images with witty political quips ripping the politics of the other party, but I would say that if you choose to post them while also calling for people to reach over and beyond aisles of disagreement, that second part will be harder to believe. Some of you out there have no interest in building bridges and will have a legitimate case for calling me out on the privilege that I have to urge bridge-building, but I stand firm in by belief that those of us in the church can and must model a different way of  living in conflict and disagreement with one another.

This is not a call to weakness, but to graciousness. We can speak truth to power without tearing one another down, we can challenge the beliefs of another without resorting to violent rhetoric and we can stand for human dignity without stripping human dignity from those who may not stand along side of us. Jesus did it all the time, others have done it since then and I refuse to believe that we cannot do it still.

So . . . while I do get a chuckle out of some of what you all post and the serious creativity that politics can inspire, when it comes to choosing how to engage during this political season, I’m going to try my darnedest to muzzle my smart-ass awesomeness in exchange for words of hope-filled idealism.

If you’re up for it, you’re welcome to join me.

And for your viewing and listening pleasure, here is the real One Day More, the 10th Anniversary performance.

YouTube Preview Image

Or if you are a Nick Jonas fan, here’s his version and the movie trailer is here.


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