Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Words Have Meaning

 I do not often post about politics, and, in fact, just today I shared two blog posts discussing why Christians should be hesitant to post much about politics on social media.  However, once in a while something disturbs me enough I need to hash out some thoughts here, and this is one of those times.  First of all, before I get to my point, this post isn’t about one party or another, and whenever this interminable election is finally certified I will accept the results and whoever has won this thing will be my president, even if I don’t like it.  To be honest, I didn’t really like either choice this time around, but one had policies I can endorse and one clearly did not, so I made my choice. Also, for the record, I think there is benefit to bipartisan government.  It’s a good thing to have different voices at the table and to compromise and check each other civilly in government.  

That said, there is some rumbling going on among the most leftward of the crowd that I find disturbing in the extreme.  This article reports about how certain loud voices are saying they want to blacklist anyone who supported or worked for President Trump and to give them no place in polite society, as one of them said. They are saying that anyone who supported or worked for Trump should basically be denied a job and punished for daring to think differently than they do politically.  I'm not just taking this one article's word, and I'm aware it's hard to find unbiased news sources these days and we need to take everything we read from them with with a healthy sense of skepticism, but I have seen the tweets from the actual people, and I've seen this reported on from several sources, so I feel pretty confident it's worth taking seriously. 

I do not care where you fall on the political spectrum, if it is true that elected officials and people of influence are spouting this kind of rhetoric, this should concern you, whether you’re on the left, right, or center. And it should scare us no matter which direction it's coming from, whether it is someone on the left or right advocating for this. This is not the American way. Have we learned nothing from the history of the 20th century? 

I thought “Hate has no home here,” and “In this house we believe kindness is everything.” I mean, I’ve been walking past the yard signs virtue signaling this for months, so……do the words mean anything at all? Does this sound like kindness? Does this sound like not hate? Or are those sentiments only for those with whom you agree? Kindness is easy when someone agrees with you.  It’s a whole lot harder, and just as important, and even more meaningful, when it’s someone who differs. 

We get the word tolerance thrown around at us all the time.  I don’t think it means what a lot of people want it to mean.  The very nature of tolerance is being able to get along with people who have different beliefs, opinions, thoughts than yours. The very idea that we need tolerance implies that we have differences. Tolerance does not mean we have to accept and affirm and celebrate any and every thing, it means we can agree to disagree and even allow for differences. Kindness means we don’t bully others for disagreeing, but we allow for disagreement in a civil way.  Kindness means we can love and respect each other even when we don't agree about everything, sometimes even agreeing to disagree, and sometimes that might even mean agreeing not to talk about some things with each other to spare the relationship, if necessary. Kindness also can mean learning to 'read the room' and know when it's worthwhile to die on a hill, and when it's worthwhile to be quiet. Just because your feelings get hurt, doesn’t mean the other person was actually being unkind or intolerant.  You can choose to take offense or not.  If the other person is truly hurtful in how they express differences, then, sure, they bear some blame, but simply that someone disagrees, it does not mean that person is being unkind or intolerant.  We simply see things differently, and we need to grow up and embrace the diversity that makes for a truly interesting society.  That’s another word that gets thrown around but which is used incorrectly. It is not unkind to disagree. It is not intolerant to hold a differing opinion. True diversity goes beyond what people look like. It is also richly displayed in allowing people to come to their own conclusions and opinions based on how they see the world. 

How we voice or act on our disagreement can be unkind or intolerant at times, surely, but that we disagree is not, in itself, an unkindness or intolerance. It is unkind and intolerant to insist that everyone think exactly like I do and to blacklist anyone who does not. We seem to have come to a point in our society where words have come to mean the exact opposite of what they actually mean.  

I have grown so tired of being called all kinds of unfair and untrue things just because I do not buy into the leftist agenda and mindset.  As I see calls on Twitter for lists and retribution against people solely based on their political beliefs, remind me again who you think the fascists are? Have you ever read 1984

And I don’t think the queasiness I feel over this kind of rhetoric is unfounded.  Have you been watching the growth of cancel culture over the past several years? 

But, in spite of the queasiness and unease I feel over this, I do know that God is sovereign, even over this kind of frightening rhetoric.  I am not despairing.  I do find it concerning, but I also, ultimately, can rest, knowing that I belong to Christ, and whatever happens in this country, ultimately, as my pastor in Texas used to say, “No matter what, I’m going to Heaven.”  I pray for my country, I pray for cooler heads to prevail, and whoever is elected to government office, I pray for them to lead with honesty and integrity, and no matter what the final outcome of this election is determined to be, I will pray and be the best citizen I can be, and I will moderate my speech and try to live by the true definitions of kindness and tolerance and place my focus on what is true and beautiful and holy.