Election year will not make me crazy.
I know technically election year is not until 2016, but try telling that to social media. Unkind memes and angry articles about Presidential and lesser political candidates from both sides of the aisle are already breaking out on Facebook like zits swelling with dead bacteria just waiting to pop. If I’m to survive the real infection next year, I need a care plan now.
If I’m being honest, I really wanted to write this blog to the passionate political Facebookers, offering tips like “Speak up for the rights of others more than for your own.” But after reading the previous paragraph, you know as well as I do that my own heart — perhaps more than theirs — is the one in need of peace.
I should pause here to clarify. I like politics on Facebook… sometimes. A history teacher friend of mine regularly posts topical articles on her timeline for discussion. Most who participate recognize that the process is for the purpose of “iron sharpening iron.” We think through issues from others’ perspectives in order to burn the inconsistencies out of our own perspectives. More importantly, the articles help us examine the way we relate to the people around us, at the local, national, and global scales. I view this side of politics as a positive tool for social justice.
But I also see status updates and memes every day that — unlike my friend’s articles — discourage thinking from all but one perspective. These “strong opinion posts” stir up immature emotions by asking readers to vehemently agree or disagree, rather than seek cooperation with humbleness. I want to give my friends who like and share such posts the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they view them with good intentions as their right to express an opinion, but I am concerned that the posts may be useless and divisive at best. Then there are the actively rude, argumentative, fearful, and dictatorial posts that serve mostly to diminish the character of those who make the posts. This side of politics dominates my news feed and this side of politics makes me crazy… but only if I let it.
So I’m writing this to myself, and I’m sharing it for those who may be like me. Who lament the lavish volume of time, energy, and money devoted to political control when so much real good remains undone. Who understand the devastating consequences of bitterness between fellow citizens in the name of uncompromising political positions. Who beg for kindness to overcome opinions. Who will eventually consider avoiding the internet altogether as next November draws near.
Who decide this election season to keep our sanity regardless of the chaos around us. This is for us.
1. Every time I read something of a political nature, I will do something extra for the community.
Yes, I admit I got this idea because I wanted to tell passionate campaigners to donate to charity every time they shared a political meme and volunteer every time they posted an original political tweet or status update. But since I’m working on the mess in my own heart instead, I’ll do it when I read their postings.
I think this will do two things for me: First, it will take my mind off the craziness and put it on things that matter. Second, it will allow me to participate in the redemption of said craziness. Imagine if each time one campaign status was posted, the 50 people who saw it gave diapers to a medical clinic or cleaned toilets at a food bank or even just picked up a candy bar wrapper off the sidewalk. It kind of makes me excited.
2. I will pray for the physical needs of everyone who annoys me with their politicking.
I read The Screwtape Letters in high school, and this was the main point I got out of it. It’s too easy to pray that others will grow in maturity or some other condescending “God please fix them” prayer. Change in my heart comes when I pray that their needs will be met.
3. I will express empathy and compassion.
One of the hardest things for me to do is to forgive people who don’t think they need forgiveness. (On the list of personal offenses, Facebook politics is extraordinarily low, but if my heart needs to forgive, it needs to forgive.) Even harder is to cut those people slack. Hardest of all is to find the humbleness to empathize with them. I will remember this election season that we’re all just people. We all have preconceptions that don’t align with truth, we all have said something stupid we later wish we could take back, we all want to get our way, we all have done something selfish instead of sacrificing for the greater good.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not going to say, “It’s all good.” But I will relax and start saying more often, “We’re all just people.” If necessary and appropriate, I’ll say it out loud.