There are many things I avoid – eating excessive amounts of peanut butter, ironing, mom jeans and most of all – politics.
Politics is necessary in any democracy and political liberty is one of the greatest things about our country. However, the way people use it to insult others, promote their platform — no matter how inaccurate or askew, and refuse basic civilities, like listening to another’s viewpoint disturbs me. I have seen this from the elephants and the donkeys. I have seen this from presidents, political leaders, media, and from the dearest of friends and family.
All the while I have kept my mouth shut. Tell me I have no backbone, and I will tell you I have a little scoliosis. Perhaps my spine isn’t as straight as it should be; nevertheless, I assure you it is there.
So while I have tried to toe the line, change the subject and keep my political convictions confined to the ballot, doing works of mercy during an election year proves to be a particular challenge.
First, I had a horrible fight with a dear friend over the presidential election. What was so maddening about this was that she has always known where I stand politically, and for the most part it has been opposite of her. Nothing has changed.
So why now is it a huge issue, when I have continued to stay relatively mum on the subject? She said it was easier to ignore before I considered putting a campaign sign in my yard. Too bad for me, it was not easy to ignore her rant that seemed more personal than political. The minutia that inflames people these days is startling.
I was hurt that she said the things she did, but I was also frustrated. I don’t want to have to identify myself with any political party (which is why I was debating putting the sign in my yard in the first place.) I am so much more than my politics. I wonder if that is how people end up so far right or so far left, refusing to listen to the other’s point of view because there are so few in the middle capable of true dialogue.
When it comes to politics, it seems impossible for most people to believe that you are a good person, when you dare to vote differently than they do. My friend is a good person, mother, citizen and friend. I think she would say the same of me, but suddenly all that is forgotten when the subject of politics arises. Again look at what is being forgotten – these are things that unlike whether you wear red or blue on Election Day truly matter.
I often hear religious people referred to as “intolerant.” I can’t think of anything further from the truth when I consider my faith. Jesus didn’t hang out with the cool kids. He ministered to lepers, prostitutes, the poor, the crippled, the disavowed and disowned. I think He was incredibly tolerant.
I am not so dense that I don’t see that people vote their personal and religious convictions, and they are therefore inherently intertwined. That is how I vote. However believing something politically or religiously different doesn’t give anyone the right to damn another or judge them. And let’s be honest there is a lot of damning going on.
Speaking of which, the second damn thing that happened to me was the admonishment I received for protesting in front of a future site of an abortion clinic. Again, practicing something personal and moral to me becomes distorted by politics.
I didn’t protest to be politically correct; because I am pretty sure it’s not – the politics of popular culture lean in the other direction these days. I did it as a spiritual work of mercy, to advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves. It is what we as Christians are called to do.
I have not protested anything more significant than someone cutting in front of me in the check-out line at Target, so for me this was uncharted territory.
October is the month for the 40 Days for Life campaign (I am not sure when the other 9 days are since the month only has 31, but I figured it best to not get bogged down in the details.) I did inquire when I spoke with the demonstration organizer if the signs I would be carrying were offensive. It was important to me to not carry a sign with any graphic images. I was assured that they were appropriate.
I covered the 8 a.m. shift because that is when I was told volunteers were most needed. My girlfriend, who had never protested anything either, volunteered to join me and since she had not set out to perform a year of mercy work, I thought this was very admirable of her.
So there I was with my friend who chose to wear a cheery pink shirt to match her disposition. (She said she wasn’t sure what was appropriate protest attire, but decided there was no need to be gloomy.) I liked her attitude.
I had wondered about this myself – the demeanor of a protester. Often they seem angry, but I am not angry. I was relieved to see that no one I met there was angry either. I believe the people there were advocating for life. It seemed more an act of love than an act of anger.
I brought my camera to take pictures to share on this site and realized when I was posing I was all smiles. Oops. I wasn’t sure if it was okay to smile when demonstrating against something so serious. But everyone was so kind and welcoming I didn’t really have a reason to not smile. I did feel like an over-zealous scrap-booker out there taking pictures. The thought of which made me smile all the more.
I don’t belie the seriousness of abortion. I think it is sad that people feel like there is no other choice. There are so many choices in our country. Good, doable choices. For so many people to find no other choice on a daily, monthly and yearly basis is undeniably sad.
Mostly, I think it’s sad that the baby in the womb never, ever has a chance at life.
I used to think that if people were not murdered, aborted, killed in wars or otherwise destroyed by man’s free will — that maybe we would be closer to a cancer cure, world peace or simply a more joyful world. It’s hard to not lament what would have been when someone’s life ends prematurely. I think there is a lot of potential that gets buried with all of those bodies. It is a tremendous loss for our civilization.
So certainly that is nothing to smile about. Still, protesting wasn’t sad for me. It just seemed like the right thing to do for someone who doesn’t get a voice, much less a vote. It was a small gesture to the souls in heaven that never got to live on earth that says you matter to someone here.
The protest site was a vacant building on a busy stretch of Powers Avenue. It was during the morning commute so there were plenty of passersby. I found the whole thing, while significant, pretty uneventful. No one threw paint on us or yelled obscenities. Occasionally the whir of passing cars would be punctuated with a horn honk. Apparently horn-honking is good. While I am not normally a fan of being honked at because I usually associate it with road rage or perverts, holding a pro-life sign and getting a little honk was validating. (Unless, as one of the volunteers cleverly pointed out, they are displaying their middle finger.) As luck would have it, that was not the case for us.
While volunteering, my cell phone rang and I ignored it. I am sure it is not proper protest etiquette to talk on the phone when you demonstrate. It rang again a few minutes later. Since I saw that it was the same person as before, I figured I better answer it in case this person really needed me.
It turns out they had a very important question to ask – “What the hell are you doing?” I suspected that was rhetorical and answered as such. This didn’t seem like anything I needed to explain, but clearly I was being asked to justify it. To my disdain, the question I am asking very often at this point in my life is why I need to justify my beliefs. Don’t you know that I am 40? I wonder if the Catholic Church, thousands of years old, is feeling the same way.
This person kept saying don’t you realize that you are trying to intimidate people – what you are doing is intimidation.
I think what I was doing was a lot of things, but no, I don’t think standing in front of a boarded up empty business advocating life was intimidating anyone. Not to mention, me and my friend in the perky pink shirt–nor the other mothers, fathers and grandparents holding signs are not even a little bit scary. The thought of us being intimidating almost makes me laugh. One of the signs even said to join us. That seems down- right hospitable if you ask me.
But I didn’t laugh, I got a familiar pit in my stomach that I had a few days before when my political beliefs were attacked. It took about 15 seconds to realize we were not going to agree, so I ended the call explaining that obviously this was not the appropriate place to debate this. But for me, neither is any other place. I stood there for someone who couldn’t. I stood for life.
I will continue to avoid politics and I know there are many on my left and many on my right who disagree with this perceived apathy, but I do ask you to respect my choice. Perhaps, consider it is rooted more in the desire for peace than it is in passivity.
My friend who I had the argument about politics with offered a profound and sincere apology, which shows that she too is more than her politics. Meanwhile, I listened to other disapproving comments about the abortion protest from several people. I offered no apologies or defense, but I listened. Ultimately, I am relieved to have this part of my work done.
So, imagine my exasperation when while writing this very entry my seven-year old struts into the living room donning a dapper suit and fedora. He announces that his second grade class is doing a social studies project and will have a class election. Even more exciting than that, his good friend is running for president and he has picked my son as his running mate. I must go now because he has asked me to use the computer. He needs it to make signs for their campaign.
God help me.