For years I have battled the same inside voices, as well as a few outside my head. This tired rhetoric that all Christians must be conservative Republican fundamentalist right-wing ditto heads. The thought is so absurd to me that for years I have found myself saying yes to nearly any liberal agenda just for the sake of spite. That is truly sad.
I grew up in a home dominated by conservative thought and pervaded by Republican agenda. Ronald Reagan was a hero and we were all blessed (insert sarcasm font) to be living in this country where we could enjoy freedoms unlike any other country on earth. I also grew up with this notion that if not for the military we would not be free at all and everything we enjoyed in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights was due to a soldier’s blood in battle. Ultimately, I was to bow down to the cross of the Republican Army.
Naturally, like nearly any teenager who feels claustrophobic, I felt the need to escape my homogenized culture and find something with a different view. After high school I sought to discover my options to life and found that a good chunk of the world did not prescribe to the GOP way of thinking and it was incredibly enlightening to me. I bought every alternative viewpoint, every overtly different platform, every liberal statement and every opinion that was not Republican. It made crystal clear sense to me, and as I gained the right to vote at that tender age, I made sure every vote was blue. This was partly because I agreed with their viewpoint but it also was my defiant cry to the way I was raised. I wasn’t going back there, to that narrow minded, cold hearted way of thinking. Yea, I was angry back then and this was how I showed it. Haha!
Moving from Seattle to Portland made it even easier to maintain my liberal views and when I got there in ’96 I loved it. At that point, I had also been away from any semblance of church for over 13 years. As I was maturing into someone with diverging views from what I was raised with, Portland offered me not only a window into similar ideals but introduced me to even grander thoughts. At the age of 26, I was still willing to join the military, still in agreement with the death penalty and still thought guns were kind of cool. All of that changed in that first year in P-town.
By 1998 I had met an amazing woman and had jettisoned any thoughts that I might ever move back to Washington State. Oregon was my home now and it represented much of who I was at that point, and who I wanted to be. I became interested in the political landscape and knowing past governors and state leaders, while understanding certain state laws that were different from what I had known. I loved the history and enjoyed learning about how fierce certain past leaders had been regarding outsiders with differing views. One of my favorites was this idea that a past governor had arranged for a billboard to be put up just inside the state line on I-5 that read, “Welcome to Oregon, now go home”. There never was a sign but there were bumper stickers. Discovering tidbits like this made me want to get to know politicians in this state because maybe they were different from everywhere else.
A preface here would be good, I think. It’s notable to mention that I have never been interested in a career in politics, which is true, but I will say I have given some thought to being involved in city civics. I find no redeeming qualities in serving in politics beyond a city level, but that might be good fodder for another blog.
For the next fifteen years I voted almost exclusively Democrat and felt strongly that any other view was simply ignorant. It’s not that I could not have an open mind towards any other opinion but at the time, the evidence against any other view seemed rather obvious, at least to me. After spending 10 years in the Portland Metro area, I was given an opportunity to move to Central Oregon for work. My wife and I began looking into it and before too long we both fell in love with the idea to move. Plans were made and in the summer of 2006 we made our way to Redmond.
About two years after moving out here, my heart began to change dramatically. As my faith grew, my desires and interests towards politics shrank. By 2009 I had reasoned with myself that I wanted very little to do with any party but maybe I could be a Progressive. But even by the end of that year I had begun to refer to myself as apolitical and questioned whether or not I could ever vote again.
As the fall of 2012 approached, I ended up voting for a no name, independent candidate for president, who garnered less than 2% of the vote. I laughed it off and realized I had truly turned a corner by my actions, but my thoughts still weighed heavily toward social justice. At my heart I was, and still am, a bleeding heart liberal, full of compassion for my fellow man, but the political arena had become one of the most despicable examples of pure human greed that I had ever witnessed. My decision to stop voting for one of the 2 major parties was an easy one. Choosing to pull myself away from politics altogether was more difficult.
By the spring of 2013 I had come to the conclusion that any political discussion was purely toxic in nature and made it clear that I would have no part in conversations where it was the topic. There had become no doubt that anyone who willfully participated in these types of conversations wanted nothing more than a verbal fight. Talking politics became an opportunity to throw verbal grenades with no fear of consequence. If you happened to be surrounded by like minded individuals, you could espouse your opinion without fear of retribution. However, in my case I found I was constantly surrounded by people who did not think like me and I became very good at diffusing a conversation before it exploded.
Today, I have most certainly realized that it is possible to have a political conversation without it turning into a fight, but the caveat is that one must have this conversation with someone who actually wants to have civil discourse. Given this maxim, I rarely have conversations that involve politics and find I am much happier this way. Having made the choice to be apolitical has given me much clarity, especially regarding what is most important in this life, at least from my perspective.
I know that politics will always pervade our thoughts, motivate certain decisions and steer some conversations, but being ruled by these things is not necessary. Too often in this society, we allow politics to be all consuming, turning it into something it was never intended to be. In my opinion, it’s disgusting. Political discourse should create bridges from island to island in our span of humanity. Instead, we remain on our island and toss bombs at each other with no other intention than to eliminate those who do not think like we do. Politics has indeed become divisive in nature and instead of building each other up, people are tearing down and doing so with fervor.
That truism makes my decision to pull away that much easier. I can be considerably more effective in this place and in this life if I commit to living out what I used to hope for in political candidates. Mahatma Gandhi once said, “be the change you want to see in the world”. That ideal is in no way unattainable and we sell ourselves very short when we choose to believe we cannot be that very change. It’s true that politics will indeed change the world, but will it do so in a way that is meaningful? Will the impact be one of positivity or will it continue to only bring us divisiveness?