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Monday, September 8, 2008

The Political Landscape of America

Being back in the States for the Democratic and Republican political conventions has been quite the experience. It was good to see this process in action. One week I was drowning in Democrat love, the next fuming over the Republican rhetoric that I found quite distasteful at points. Yes, I am a supportive member of the Democratic party. But I have to say that I genuinely went into the experience of the Republican convention with a somewhat open mind, hoping to come to a better understanding of why people, especially Christians, get so excited about Republican ideals. It didn't work. All it did was make me mad and here's why.
Sarah Palin gave an incredible speech. She did far better than I expected her to on the national scene. However, Sarah Palin's speech was full of sarcastic, acerbic, inflammatory statements against Barack Obama. She belittled his life as a community organizer and elevated her own status through pithy remarks that have nothing to do with anything important in the political process, such as being a hockey mom who resembles a pit bull. Rudy Guiliani wasn't any better. It was like he was doing stand-up comedy and he was so disparaging of Obama that it was almost embarrassing. What's really hard for me to take is how people cheered. And many of my Republican friends who are also Christians were loving all of this. I don't get this. I understand that the two parties have very different perspectives on the role of government and espouse very different value systems. That I can live with. But why all the mean-spiritedness? Why the belittling of people for one's own political gain? Fine if you think someone is unqualified, but list why you think that, don't just attack them personally. Fred Thompson did a nice job of summarizing McCain's career. It is noteworthy and impressive, but it's about the only thing of substance the entire Republican convention set forth. They barely addressed one pressing issue in our nation, like the war in Iraq, our badly damaged reputation overseas, health care, education. For a party that's been in charge for the last 8 years, 6 of which they held the house and the senate, they are sure needing to talk about change an awful lot. McCain all but divorced himself from the current administration and that was probably the center-piece of the Republican convention...prove those watching that it won't be McCain, more of the same.
During the Democratic convention, I was excited because night after night we heard excellent speeches, from gifted orators, a skill that has been sorely missing from our public discourse over the past 8 years. They set forth the case for electing Obama, in part by listing the failures of this administration, but they never attacked Bush personally, or spoke of Cheney in a disparaging manner. You can disagree with their assessment, but at least they weren't mean. The meanest it got was when Obama said that McCain wouldn't go to the cave where Bin Laden lived. We could've lived without that comment, I suppose.
So, here I am. An American living in Sweden, wondering about my nation. Of course, politics are dirty and ugly. But as Christians, where do we fit into this conversation? Do we just ignore the lack of ethics and values that we see in order to promote our party or do we seek a better conversation? I am interested in a better conversation. One where we can agree to disagree in a civil, respectful manner. One where I can look my Republican friends in the eye and challenge their perspective and enjoy a drink with them afterwards. Pie in the sky? Perhaps, but why not give it a try?