It is election season, and I am disgusted by the state of the political discourse. Fear seems to be the driving factor on so many levels – fear of anyone who is different, fear of refugees, fear of Muslims, fear of terrorists, fear of someone taking away what is “rightfully mine”, and on it goes. Another kind of fear is playing out as well: the fear of being bullied.
I cannot remember any other time in my life when people were afraid to give their honest opinion about a politician or their policies because they knew that they would be bullied, not only by that person but by the millions who follow him. All it took was one newscaster to say a candidate was a bad debater, and the Twitter-verse erupted with the most vile, spiteful, demeaning comments about that newscaster. She was shaken to the core by the vicious attacks, and honestly frightened for her family. And she is not alone. It has happened repeatedly, to such an extent that (according to news articles in major publications), many prominent donors and authority figures are keeping silent for fear of similar attacks against them and their families.
I worry what we are teaching our children in this election. We’ve fought so long and hard to combat bullying in our schools. We’ve fought for the dignity of every person, and for everyone’s First Amendment rights to free speech. We instruct young people on the virtues of our political system of governance and the importance of compromise that protects the common good. Yet we vote for and cheer people who contradict those principles at every level. And our children are watching
I do not advocate for a particular candidate or party – neither is or ever will be perfect. But it is time to speak against the tactics of fear, bullying, prejudice, discrimination, and egoism from any candidate, side, or party, and I believe that we Christians have a particular responsibility to do so. Who has the courage to speak out? Who will be the Peters of our day, standing before the Sanhedrin and proclaiming the truth of God’s love, mercy, and salvation? Who will rightly feed the lambs and tend the sheep? Who will help stop the degradation of our political process, uphold respect and dignity, and find a mutually beneficial path forward?
I am searching for ways to make my voice heard. I am definitely speaking up in conversations with others, trying to model the type of behavior I long for from our politicians. I am educating myself even more deeply on the issues at stake and the consequences of each politician’s views so I can discuss intelligently and respectfully and without twisting facts. I voted in our primary election and will vote in the general election in November. I am encouraging pastors and religious educators to speak out against these tactics in formation, RCIA, classes, and from the pulpit. It doesn’t feel like enough but it’s a start, and I will be looking for more opportunities to bring civility, compassion, honest debate, and Christian virtues to the fore.
I’ve heard the proverb that Christians are like snowflakes – individually they are unique and beautiful, but together they can stop traffic. Can we join together and create an environment of respect and integrity? Can we afford not to?
Amy Florian is a teacher and consultant working in Chicago. For many years she has partnered with the Passionists. Visit Amy’s website: http://www.corgenius.com/