Things About Division

"If there is a country in the world where concord, according to common calculation, would be least expected, it is America. Made up as it is of people from different nations, accustomed to different forms and habits of government, speaking different languages, and more different in their modes of worship, it would appear that the union of such a people was impracticable; but by the simple operation of constructing government on the principles of society and the rights of man, every difficulty retires, and all the parts are brought into cordial unison." - Thomas Paine, Rights of Man

I’ve been sitting here, (mostly) quietly, watching. 

Watching, listening. Waiting to see. For two years, since the Man Who Would Be our 45th president was elected, I have watched, somewhat in shock and awe along with the rest of America, wondering what would happen. 

As our nation has slowly become more and more polarized left to right, more and more divided, I’ve watched the hate grow on both sides. I’ve seen extremes grow and become exacerbated.  Political and social swings become more and more violent and the space between grows ever larger.

I’ve been watching, mostly, trying to not pick sides, waiting to let the fruit of our actions as a nation to deliver the verdict. But here we are, at another election and there’s something I wanna say.

We have battles to fight right now. I’m a firm believer that “evil will triumph when good men do nothing” (not Edmund Burke) and I’m a firm believer in moral courage - standing up for what you believe in, and doing the right thing. 

I believe that these battles we face today need to be fought correctly. I believe bringing guns into a fight that should to be won in legislation is wrong. I believe that taking innocent lives in the name of "moral courage" is wrong. I believe that violence against law enforcement and other federal employees is wrong, whether it is radicalized offshoots of the Black Lives Matter movement or ranchers in eastern Oregon that are initiating the attacks.

That’s why I have to say this: I came of age in a “Christian community." I have been out of it for some time now. The belief system in that place dictates that those followers take dominion over the earth for the kingdom of God, beginning in the local community. One of the best ways to do this is by becoming politically involved in local government. That being said, I have a high level of respect for people from the community to which I formerly belonged who have chosen to run for office. I do not agree with their religious platform, but I support their right to believe in it and campaign boldly. 

In the last few weeks I have had to wrestle the demons of my own personal experience to find and understand this for myself. I've had to overcome anger at injustice that I have both witnessed and experienced, and separate my pain from the truth that there is strength in embracing our very different world views.

I won’t vote for them. Heck, I’ll probably lobby against them. But they’re doing it the right way and I will give the ones that do credit for it. Rick Johnson is running for assessor. I won’t vote for Rick, but I support the fact that he is managing his campaign with dignity and I respect him for what he’s trying to do. He's not storming the county courthouse with his guns drawn and I dig that.

This country works because we have different beliefs. If we all believed the same thing, we'd wipe ourselves out in pretty short order (see Idiocracy). We need diversity to move ahead and we need conflict to affect change, but conflict needs to be resolved the right way. Not by killing police officers. Not by pulling guns on federal employees or occupying federal property - but by changing legislation. By voting, by campaigning, by being active in our communities and swaying the vote in a direction that we believe in strongly with powerful words and intelligent actions, while at the same time respecting those across the fence from us.

“I may not agree with you, but I will defend to the death your right to make an ass of yourself.” - Oscar Wilde

What we’ve lost in the last few years isn’t a moral compass, it isn’t good intentions - what we have lost is respect for each other. We have lost self-control. We have lost patience and understanding with each other. We have taken our own personal hurts and turned them into the reasons that we condemn and judge people who are different than we are. I am as guilty as anyone of this. We lose a loved one to senseless murder by gunfire and all gun owners become our enemy. We lose a loved one to an officer-involved shooting and all cops are bad. Our personal liberties are threatened, new taxes and laws imposed and our frustration becomes personal. 

We have lost sight of the differences that make us powerful. Our founding fathers understood this and set into place guiding standards for our governing systems. 

“... for where there is such a variety of sects, there cannot be a majority of any one sect to oppress and persecute the rest.” -James Madison, Federalist #10.

The pendulum swing of our political climate has become emotionally driven by hyper-excited media and showboating politicians on both sides. We have forgotten that our neighbors are good people, (unless you live next door to a serial killer) and they want what's best for all of us too. 

“We have it in our power to begin the world over again.” - Thomas Paine

Vote your hearts out, friends. Vote conservative or liberal, democrat or republican, or howeverthehell you want, and share your beliefs passionately, but find some love in your heart for the ones who challenge your thoughts, because in the end, they can either sharpen your mind and build your compassion or they can make you dull and obnoxious and earn you a hefty filtering on social media. 

Stand up for what you believe in. Do it the right way. Love your neighbor. Be a better human. 

Be a better human, or if possible, a pirate. 

“Think as you please, and so let others, and you will have no disputes.”- Thomas Jefferson

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