We have entered what is unquestionably my least favorite season. Election season. Every other commercial is a political ad full of doubtful claims, either for one candidate or against their opponent. Lies from politicians and political campaigns, though, are just an annoyance. The way non-politicians discuss politics, that’s what hurts my head and heart.
I’m not super active of Facebook as is, but I’m now actively avoiding it. I just can’t handle another pointless argument. Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t mean that a reasonable, thoughtful, conversation, debate, or even argument about politics would be empty and a waste of time. I love those. I just haven’t seen one in a long time. Discussions of politics have come be full on echo chambers. A dissenting view isn’t engaged, it’s shouted down by a chorus of voices, insults, and accusations.
The problem is that people have come to treat their politics like a religion. Statements about policy are taken on faith, not by sight. OUR candidate is here to save us. THEIR candidate is a servant of evil, come to destroy us and everything we hold dear. OUR party is made up of good, hard working Americans who just want what is best for the country. THEIR party is largely made up of bots from enemy foreign nations.
Obviously, though, the problem isn’t with the idea of religion. The problem is we’re asking a tool to handle a problem it wasn’t ever intended to. I could, in theory, drive a nail into a piece of wood using a wrench, but I’m likely to damage the wood, bend the nail, or damage the wrench. It’s the wrong tool for the wrong job. Politics is about the shaping and maintaining of a society. Politics is, in its proper place, a very good thing. Politics, however, is not, never has been, and never can be, the path to our ultimate fulfillment.
Politics should be about removing the systematic obstacles and hindrances that keep people from their ultimate fulfillment. That’s what it is. As we so often do, though, we have confused the means for the end, and so we belong to a religion without a God. We only ask how, we never ask why. We chase progress without ever considering what are we progressing towards. We have a couple months until the election. I’m not thinking we can totally rework the conversation around politics this year, but maybe, just maybe, we can start to?