Election Day 2016

This morning I cast my ballot moments after the polling site opened its doors. It was a pen and paper ballot, which I am adjusting to as a Californian. I try to do my best to be an educated voter, which means researching candidates and propositions. In California we try to get the most out of ballots at every election by jamming them full of propositions. Today the propositions ranged from capital punishment to plastic bags, with taxes and marijuana and pornography and bonds thrown in.

I didn’t wear my “I Voted” sticker today. I put it on the sample ballot I carried with me to make sure I filled in the circles to support my research conclusions. It has spent the day in my car.

As a professor I’m careful about politics in my classroom. My goal is to promote critical thinking and civility. It saddens me that campaigns in the United States involve attack ads and undermining opponents. As I try to promote civility in the classroom I am fighting a difficult battle. Politics and culture promote a combative attitude. Us versus them. We are enlightened and they are benighted.

Civility begins with respect. Respect for others and yourself. It also involves humility, understanding you might not know everything. Along with respect and humility, confidence (e.g. security) goes a long way in promoting civility. Aggressiveness and hostile posturing is frequently an offensive move driven by insecurity.

What saddens me about political discourse is that it frequently refuses to admit problems may have multiple solutions or that well-intentioned people may be on opposing sides. I made the image below in Paint to illustrate a point. If we must go from the current position to the star, and two parties suggest the outlined routes, it will not be long before each side demonizes the alternate route (and the people proposing the route).

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May we find ways to discuss routes in a constructive fashion. May we leave insults and pettiness out of discussions.

I find it telling that Jesus lived in a time when Roman rule was supreme and did not align with the ethics He promoted. Despite this, Jesus did not call for political revolution, He called for His followers to live lives of submission and love (a revolution of another type).

 

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