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My Take on the Presidential Election, 2008 version.

Four years ago, on the first Tuesday of November, I was one month from my 18th birthday and therefore unable to vote in the Presidential election between George W. Bush and John Kerry.

This time around, I wish that were still the case.

As we near the 4th of November, 2008, a day that seems destined to go down in history as one of the more important days in the history of the electoral college, etc., I become evermore concerned with the potential future of our nation and ever less confident in both Barack Obama and John McCain.

The thing is, in each of these Senators we have men who seem devoted to their nation, to the freedoms that it stands for and upon which it was built, and who are savvy politicians, each rhetorically gifted in their own ways (despite the media’s best efforts to convince that only one of them is actually a gifted rhetorician). And in fact, for what its worth, I think that both will lead this nation in positive directions – at times.

But, as many others have elucidated before me, and with much more clarity and profundity than I could ever muster, it appears that we are stuck having to choose between the lesser of two evils. Such is democracy.

Yes, what disturbs me is wishy-washy – or downright dangerous – policies. But above all, what disturbs me is the nature of this election season and the tone that is sets for American culture at large.

I have read many (even hundreds) articles arguing for and defending each candidate (though admittedly many more pro-Obama than pro-McCain) and I have seen dozens of T.V. ads, endorsed by the candidates themselves, that attack the other candidate or their party. I have read how McCain is too old and Palin too dumb; how Obama is too young and Biden too creepy. I have read how McCain is a war hero and how Obama is an intellectual giant of our time. I have read how McCain is a maverick and how Obama is a messiah. I have read how McCain is a communist and Obama a terrorist, how McCain is a war-monger and Obama a baby-killer. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle on each of these issues.

And I think that in each of these cases we are seeing a modern day political rhetoric of ethical ambiguity. That such tags and insults are thrown around so carelessly, that media and candidate alike see fit to attack their opponent with such shortsighted, nonchalant ruthlessness is unfortunate indeed and perhaps a sign of a more dangerous, deeply rooted ethical decay at work in the fabric of our society.

Indeed, where are the voices of opposition? Where are the voices of mediation? We are all tolerance with no wisdom.

Here in America we believe in freedom: freedom to say what we want, when we want, how we want, where want; the freedom to carry a fire-arm; the freedom to do away with our unborn, unwanted children; the freedom to vote; the freedom to create; the freedom to worship; the freedom to educate and be educated; the freedom to come from nothing or to be virtually nothing; the freedom to drink, eat, procreate, and play – we are a people who believe that we are all inherently deserving of these liberties, and more still.

Our Founding Fathers believed this too when they wrote that all men are created equal. But they also believed that these freedoms unfettered would lead to problems. And so they set up the Constitution and the Bill of Rights by which our government, representative of, and elected by, We the People, would lead and guide this nation. And these documents would allow for said freedoms to be enjoyed properly and would also limit the power the government had, particularly its most important figure.

These documents, they hoped, would enable the responsible enjoyment of those freedoms. Yet, here we are today, witnesses to the bastardization of those principles, witnesses to irresponsible enjoyment of those freedoms, enjoyment that necessarily diminishes our ability as a nation, as well as individuals, to truly enjoy them, let alone retain them. For except that we invest in the concept that there is inherent value in human life, or human dignity, in other words, in being a human being, then freedom is meaningless. And surely, the ethical ambiguity natural to our modern sense of politicking is anything but devoted to this grand idea!

But, you see, we too are guilty. We too partake. We, the average Americans, the voters, the campaigners, the tailgaters, are guilty of dishonesty and pandering, of scathing attacks and insulting innuendo, of forgetting that in each breath, word, blink, nod, bowel movement, kiss, or cry there is value, inherent value, in fact.

We are guilty of turning a blind eye to the suffering of the poor, here and abroad, of ignoring the plight of the uneducated, of forgetting the inherent value in all human beings. I assure you, we are. We think we are not, but indeed we are guilty of clamoring in favor of public policy and government intervention because it means that the less fortunate among us will be served but we won’t have to get our hands dirty. We are guilty of hiding behind red doors and steeples, behind 10% and Fox Faith, behind rhetoric and words and worship-filled refrains. We are guilty of attending rallies, picket signs raised high, decorated with cute slogans and cliches. We are guilty of crying out for unnamed justices. Yet, we are guilty of inaction.

Unless We the American People – from the poorest homeless man in Skid Row to the middle class soccer mom in middle America to the Commander-in-Chief in Washington – adopt an ethical and responsible approach to enjoying the freedoms our forefathers fought so valiantly to have, then we, like many other once-great nations, will find that our freedoms have become meaningless, innocuous conventions. Freedom is meant to enable us to live well, not serve as the means to do as we please.

I read recently in Relevant Magazine this quote from current Christian leader Chris Haw: “What is more important than how we vote on Nov. 4 is how we live on Nov. 3 and Nov. 5.”

So whether you agree with Mr. Obama on the war or with Mr. McCain on the economy, whether you side with Mr. Obama on abortion or with Mr. McCain on health care, it is more important that we discuss the issues with grace and with humility, with compassion for one another and for the candidates. And whether you believe your candidate of choice is the greatest thing since Frozen Custard or whether you believe you are choosing the lesser of two evils, whether you believe in “change you can believe in” or that “change” is a meaningless word, it is far more important that you and I enact the truths in which we believe, that we be the hands and feet that enable the successful implementation of the policies on whose side we align, and that we enjoy our freedoms with a measure of responsibility that will enable our children and their children to also enjoy the wonder of being American, but more importantly the wonder of being alive.

How are we to resolve this, how are to change this politic of ethical ambiguity? What must we do to insure that our grandchildren will be able to fight for the freedoms Americans have fought for so many times? Admittedly, I’m not entirely sure. But we first must learn to cross party lines, to engage in thoughtful dialogue, and to serve one another.

Remembering, of course, that truth is truth and no man can make it otherwise.

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8 thoughts on “My Take on the Presidential Election, 2008 version.

  1. Amen, brother. I have felt like a hypocrite this whole past year, talking and talking about issues that I don’t DO anything about. Maybe we should earn our right to vote by naming the top four issues we are voting on and vowing to spend time and energy each week doing something about them OURSELVES instead of trying to find a Superman to do it for us.

  2. Mine would be, I think:

    1) The sanctity of human life at any age
    2) International relations
    3) Governmental abuse of power, and
    4) The U.S. economy.

    I kind of do little things about the first two, but not nearly enough. I have no idea what I could do about the third and fourth. Letters to congresspeople, for the third? Modeling a more responsible lifestyle for #4?

    Just thinking out loud. I mean, thinking with my fingers, technically.

  3. I am terribly distressed by this election. Two Senators with no executive experience are fighting over the opportunity to prolong an economic recession (possibly to the point of depression) which they have already heavily influenced by adding their nods to the trillion-plus dollar bailout. We get to choose between invading Pakistan and Iran. Obama has reneged on his promise to hurry the troops out of Iraq if he takes office, and McCain has never been more resilient in his stance of enforcing the Iraqi police-state.

    American’s frequently confuse nationalism with moral backbone, but I have no reason to be proud of my country as it disassembles millions of the unborn (or not-so-unborn; see Obama’s Born Alive Act monstrosity) and bombs foreigners into oblivion. I’m pretty sure that when Jesus said to love your neighbor, he means not to kill them. We ought not have the audacity to believe God is on “our” side. This thing we call the United States govt. bears no resemblance to the minarchist state outlined in the Constitution.

  4. Brett says:

    Nicely stated, David. I think your final sentence says it all: “we first must learn to cross party lines, to engage in thoughtful dialogue, and to serve one another.”
    This it my hope as well… though after these 3 years of this exhausting and oftentimes ugly election, I feel rather down on the prospects that “thoughtful dialogue” will ever make a comeback in politics. One hopes.

  5. Major Bloodnok says:

    I think that this years election is definitely the most absurd of my lifetime, even more so than the 1996 foolishness of Clinton versus Dole, which was a real lulu too. But, like that election of 2 years ago I am forced to vote, not for a President, not even against a candidate, but for a Vice President. Let’s face it, the guys running for the big pants are both a couple of tools. I’ve been saying for months that it’s a horse race between a guy who’s never done anything and a guy who’s never done anything good.

    A close relation of mine was, until recently, convinced that the thing for conservatives to do was not vote at all. It would just give the Republicans license to keep running candidates of the McCain ilk for all eternity. If we lose this election Obama will have total control for only two years before the Repubs elect some decent people to congress breaking the Democrat (NOT Democratic) majority. His principles wouldn’t allow him to vote for a “pro-life Democrat” like McCain.

    I used to have principles. Now I have children. And a lot of damage can be done in two years.

    “We are guilty of turning a blind eye to the suffering of the poor, here and abroad, of ignoring the plight of the uneducated, of forgetting the inherent value in all human beings. I assure you, we are. We think we are not, but indeed we are guilty of clamoring in favor of public policy and government intervention because it means that the less fortunate among us will be served but we won’t have to get our hands dirty. We are guilty of hiding behind red doors and steeples, behind 10% and Fox Faith, behind rhetoric and words and worship-filled refrains. We are guilty of attending rallies, picket signs raised high, decorated with cute slogans and cliches. We are guilty of crying out for unnamed justices. Yet, we are guilty of inaction.”

    Sure, of course this is true. It will be true of any society in general, the most generous among them. Yet America has done more for every other country than anyone. When someone is invaded do they call France? Or even Canada? When Tsunami’s hit who sends the most people and necessary items? Germany? England? When someone flees their country of birth to escape oppression do they go to China or Japan? Do shows like Extreme Home Makeover, where the community bands together to help a family out of their problems by giving of themselves, in Norway or Mexico?

    And yet we continually kick our own ass because some people will NEVER lift a finger to help their fellow man. At least not without a change of heart- and no politician, I don’t care how slick and eloquent he or she is, will ever be able to do that.

    Now go vote for Palin for Vice President. Keep my family’s business alive.

  6. Was that a reference to faux/Fox faith? If so, ha, i still like it though, and use the website “We watch Fox so you don’t have to.”

    I miss Ron Paul, honestly. I do find a particular suggestion made by Obama great: rather than armed forces the only option for kids getting college grants, how about promoting/enlarging the Peace Corps, the Americorps, and other such programs –thus enlarging the accessibility of such community things as parks, nature trails.. you know, places homeless people sleep 😉 But. Either candidate could still do this, the big O just said it first to my knowledge.

    I do like the way you have brought up the ethical integrity of our nation though. I think more and more this will be the case, the spin or “no” spin zones of life. In our look for “truths,” the loss of authority in ethics, language, logic, even science is scary and effective toward confusion.

  7. Thank you for your thoughts David. It is a relief to hear a believer use the word grace when describing how to deal with political/social issues. (“…it is more important that we discuss the issues with grace and with humility, with compassion for one another and for the candidates.”)

    Christians who lack grace when dealing with people who’s political/social issues differ from their own offends me more than the issue of abortion itself. I don’t know of a single person who has been saved from the pit of hell because of Christian activism, but I know many who committed their life to my King because the hand of grace was extended to them.

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