Reflections on the state of rhetoric in America

It is very likely that some of the words that follow may contradict themselves, that is because I am human and I struggle to find the words to express both my thoughts and how I am feeling and in some ways I have not fully formed an opinion.

The events of Wednesday January 6, 2021 were reprehensible, they were the acts of domestic terrorists and insurrectionists spurred on by the irresponsible rhetoric of a number of people. As clergy, the irony that these events occurring on the day that we celebrate the manifestation of God on earth is not lost on me because the events that occurred in Washington D.C. and many state Capitals across the United States are in complete opposition the teachings of Christ Jesus, Muhammad, the Prophets of Israel, and all other faiths and religions.

I have seen many calls for the good old days when we all got along, with references to things like putting people on the moon by working together. Well, in those good old days we, meaning white people, were literally beating black people in the streets because they wanted to be able to vote without having to prove they could read, they wanted to be able enter the same public spaces as white people, and they thought that their children should be able to attend schools with up to date materials; women were not allowed to have a credit card without their husband’s permission, the post office did not recognize women as separate entities from the men in their lives, and they were not allowed to work in many professions if they were married; people who identified as LGBTQ were not allowed to openly love their partners, keep their jobs if their employers discovered their secret, and were regularly beaten, sometimes to death. Since 1954, 30 leaders of these movements have been brutally assassinated in the United States. We didn’t get along back then, we were just better at oppression and ignoring the truth. Thinking our nation was better in the past is choosing to view the past through rose colored glasses.

I have seen many say that the left is just as bad as the right and depending on the context that is true. There are extremist left groups and their behavior is just as bad as the behavior of the people who desecrated the U.S. Capitol (yes that is spelled correctly, look it up); but let’s be clear with our rhetoric. Extremists are not the majority of either political viewpoint. The Democratic and Republican Parties have similar behavior when it comes to politics, both accept big money, both hold high priced fundraisers, which means they are pandering to the wealthy elite. That is called politics in America and as long as we allow Political Action Committees and $50,000 tickets for rubber chicken it is not going to go away. Some people in the Republican party are complicit in their support of the conspiracy theories that led to the storming of the Capitol, I am not aware of any in the Democratic party, if there are I will stand corrected. The issue I have with statements like “the left is the same” or “the right is the same” is that it over simplifies the issues before us, it is an easy way to ignore the truth, and it is a refusal to accept that there is a problem or hold those responsible accountable. Refusing to participate in the process because you believe both sides are corrupt is short sighted. I do not participate because I am naive, I do not hold the political views I have or support the politicians I do because I believe they are sinless. My viewpoints are based on my faith and the politicians and political party I support are the ones that I believe have the best chance of helping our nation to bring about the change I believe needs to happen. I voted for a governor in the opposite party because I believe he is willing to take steps to support things that need to happen and so far he has proven me correct.

The fight for change is real and we need to be willing to change our behaviors in order to do so. I fully support the efforts and I have taken many steps to do so myself and will continue to do so because, no matter how uncomfortable it makes me, it is important and the right thing to do.

Here’s the but, I know you have been expecting it and you will probably call me a hypocrite for including it, oh well. What I do not support is self righteousness. Some elements of the progressive movement are quickly moving in the direction of becoming as oppressive as the conservative groups they accuse of the same thing. They are quick to pounce on the slightest miss-statement or action without thought, which does nothing more than alienate their potential allies. Pointing out a person’s flaws or mistakes to them harshly and publicly may help the finger pointer feel better, but it is unlikely to change the behavior of the person being pointed at. Instead it is more likely to shut them down and cause them to back away from the fight. Plowing ahead with a “right is might” attitude will not bring about change. I am not saying that nothing should be said, I am not saying that we should keep on the rosy glasses and do nothing. What I am saying is that there are ways to hold a conversation, to hold people accountable that will help them change their behavior and become allies.

I am not perfect and have never claimed to be, at least not in a serious, non-sarcastic way. I have not written this to point fingers, even though it may sound like I have. I have written this to help me process my own thoughts and feelings on the state of our country. I have done so publically with the hope that it may help others do the same. I am a flawed person, as are we all, which is why I place my trust in God who has shown me that there is a better way to live peacefully with others, a way rooted in love, not righteous indignation and snarky “I got ya” comments.

I am not to saying that a large number of people shouldn’t be angry about many things, I don’t presume to understand the anger, but I accept it and strive to empathise with it. What I am saying is that if we really want things to change then we have to be willing to see the truth, work through our emotions, and accept people for who they are, including the ideas and beliefs they have that we disagree with.