Tuesday, October 7, 2008

I'm Afraid I'll Be Glad When It's Over

This is Sarah Dunn, previously mentioned in the comments section on another post and also the friend who gave me her seat ticket from Regis and Kelly one very big year in my life. This time, it's not a ploy to get you to comment, Sarah. It's just that I'm watching the debate and planning to bring up politics again, so I thought a picture of you, the girl who went to a political rally for her tenth wedding anniversary, would be appropriate.

Most of you dear people who read my blog would say that the only way to vote responsibly is to study the candidates. Some of you would add, "and to pray." I admit when it comes to studying, I'm failing this course. I study writing and parenthood and books I need to read and educational attractions in Washington D.C. and museums in Chicago. But I just haven't made the time to compare voting records, figure out what the heck they were actually voting on, and research the financial data that would tell me once and for all what's wrong with our economy and which guy has the right idea for fixing it. Truthfully, I have begun to wonder if that is even possible.

Is it possible to truly understand what's wrong with our economy and who has the right idea for fixing it? Is it truly possible for me - a girl in small town Missouri who is much more obsessed with her 2-year-old than with foreign policy - to understand today whether or not we should have gone to Iraq? Whether or not withdrawing now would be a defeat? If the leaders of our nation can't agree on that, can I even begin to understand it?

I feel that because I have failed to study, and because I have lost a bit of faith in my ability to hear God speak on something like that - I've lost that faith because I know too many Christians absolutely convinced in opposing directions - I feel that because of those factors, what I'm left with is trying to figure out which candidate I believe. They fundamentally disagree on all of those big things - and fundamentally disagree is their phrase for it - the economy, Iraq - even each other. They disagree on each other. They tell me the other guy isn't telling me the whole story about his health care plan. They tell me the other guy is lying about what he supports, because he voted for this or that thing that proves it.

They each think they know what to do. And I feel that all I've left myself to vote with, is my heart. And whether or not I believe them.

Perhaps, without slinging anything too ugly or hateful, you could just give me some suggestions on how you came to your decision and what else you'll be carrying into the booth besides your heart. And if you even carry that - as I know of course, it can be misleading.


Lori said...

I hate to say this but...when I was your age (there I said it!) a lot of issues were confusing to me and I have always been a political person who studied the issues. Not intensively, mind you, but enough that I felt like I had a decent grasp.
Now that I'm, well, my age, the world events look very familiar to me. Vietnam...Irag, economy...a lot like the late '80's but a bit worse, Russia is still the Soviet Union only with a more "modern" dictator, health care has been getting worse since I was in high school.
My point is that there is nothing new under the sun. When it's been difficult to make a choice I "go with my gut" as they say. I have no faith in other people's political opinion. Voting is our individual opinion.
It's also similar to parenting. You try to make the right decision, have all the info, etc. but sometimes it isn't as easy as it seems in the parenting books. Life gets in the way.
Anyway, I'm trying to say don't feel guilty, go with who you feel is the best, and remember, God has used some unlikely rulers to get the job done and the Bible says clearly that God puts who He wants in positions of authority. (See Romans 13 for more info) The Creator of the Universe is in charge and all will go according to His wonderful plan!

shiuvaun said...

Here's what I would say--for the next four weeks, which could be the most important 4 weeks in recent American history--STOP studying educational attractions in DC, writing, parenthood (you study that every day, without reading anything, don't you?), museums, and anything else that doesn't focus on this election, the candidates, and the future of America. Read as many newspapers ac you can, and magazines (and not only ones that agree with your point of view--go waaaay outside of your box to get the other side!), watch Fox News & PBS, listen to Rush Limbaugh & NPR, think, think, THINK, and pray and most of all, listen to hour heart when you are informned and hear what these four folks have to say. Try to read their spirits. Most of all, keep in mind the Golden Rule. Go to the polls with fear and trembling, as you are deciding the future of America, and that is no small task.

Den said...

There's so many ugly and hateful things I want to say, but I will endeavor to hold my (fingers?)tongue.

I'll tell you how I found my heart moved and then what I would do if I were you (though not who to vote for). Last summer, before the primaries got under way, I saw Obama's Audacity of Hope on CD in Pickler Library at Truman. I had heard about the junior senator from Illinois (the Land of Lincoln and the land of me) and thought I should find out who he was as it appeared he might make a run for president. Combined with my then recent acquisition of an iPod, it was a fortuitous time to listen to the book. I did so and found that I enjoyed his voice, both the timbre of his reading voice and his prose voice. In particular, his experiences in cities I grew up in as he traveled around the state and his desire to get beyond red and blue state politics moved me to like him. That's how I became an Obama fan. I did spend time reading and thinking about the candidates before throwing my support behind him, and I continue to listen and watch as there are some things that would be dealbreakers for me. I know you wanted something other than heart, but I trust you'll pardon me for sharing my not-too-cerebral journey.

As to what I would do, if I were you: I would get Matt Bowman and Tom Mayer together and make them tell me about their decisions and whey they made them. This would, last I checked, get you opposing political choices from thoughtful people who would not berate you for disagreeing with them and who would both admit that they don't know everything. Then, at least, you would have a debate at which you could ask questions and you could trust that both had your best interests in mind. I don't know how feasible this truly is, but it sounds like a worthwhile forum.

Good Luck with however you come to make the decision. And, while I think it is important that we vote, remember that the whole thing does not depend on your making the right decision.

serenity said...

These thoughts are helping immensely. Keep 'em comin', People.

Anonymous said...

I feel your pain. I like that democracy allows for choices, but I despise the competition for those choices. That such naked ambition is willing to distort the truth, malign the other and us, and deploy such psychological assaults makes me want to stay out it...not vote.

Tracy said...

Okay, even though I take A LOT of flack for doing this, I'll put it out here for the whole world to see. My husband, Leonard, is very interested in all of this stuff. He studies the candidates, their stands on every issue, and he also goes with his gut on who he can trust.
I trust Leonard. So when it comes time to vote I usually ask him who to vote for. He then wants to tell me who to vote for and WHY. I have to stop him right there. "Don't give me the details. Just tell me who to vote for."
It's not that I don't have the intelligence to study it for myself. I just really don't want to. I'd like to see the right person get in there, but as you said Serenity, I just really don't know who to believe.
Leonard and I think the same on almost every important issue there is. Our life philosophy is the same... and I figure why do all the work twice?
AND... it does my heart good to know the Leonard and my votes aren't just cancelling each other out. :o)
SORRY EVERYBODY. That's how I roll.

serenity said...

Okay - I'm putting in my official plea that no one scold Tracy. I love you for putting that out there for my benefit, Tracy. Each of these comments are just the kind of variety and encouragement I was looking for.

Felicity said...

I watched a bit of the debate last night for a Critical Thinking class (Den, I'm really enjoying my philosophy professor! He's probably you in about 20 years - perfectly cool and laid back but brilliant and challenging). I kept having the same despairing feeling. McCain would say one thing and Obama would counter it directly. He believes this - No, I believe this. He voted for this - No, I voted for this. I turned to Dan and asked, "How do you KNOW which one of them is telling the truth?" More than mildly frustrating.

Den, I remember seeing Obama's Audacity of Hope speech at that convention and being mesmerized by his charisma and passion.

I don't think your ideas are whimpy at all, Tracy. I've done the same thing with my Dad.

The rest of you have some great ideas for studying, but I'll be honest. Working full time, raising four children, and taking 12 hours of college courses pretty much leaves me with zero time to do any intensive research. I'm going to have to listen to my most trusted advisors (which includes many of you and friends you have mentioned) and trust myself. AND remember that the things that are most important to me - my God and my family - can't be shaken by ANYTHING that happens in this election. There is a Constant that is constant even in the depths of communist North Korea and debt-ridden African townships. Don't misunderstand my position as apathetic, it is just that I realize we are blessed beyond measure in our country in comparison to the rest of the world, and even a bad president in this country is better than a corrupt dictator in another.

Anonymous said...

If you haven't read or heard Obama's Audacity of Hope speech to which Felicity and Den have referred, you can do so at
I'm not posting this to persuay you in any direction, but think you may find it food for thought while weighing these matters of the heart.

Matt Bowman said...

Boy, I hear you. If I know anything for sure it's that I don't know much! I think I narrow down my own process to two main things: values and nuance. The first is mostly about heart, the second mostly about head. Warning: this could get long!

Values. This word is thrown at us from all sides, used to divide more than unite, and generally claimed by all and sundry in order to appear to have the moral high ground. I'll speak briefly to the religious (and specifically Christian) use of values, since I know that is a big part of both of our backgrounds.

The Christian religion contains a huge range of perspectives on God, the Bible, Jesus, and, therefore, living. Some folks focus most on what they feel we shouldn't do. Others focus most on what they feel we should do. Some people focus more on inward change (changing themselves), others more on outward change (changing others or society). Some see the Bible as a set of instructions to be carried out, others as a testimony of a whole lot of people's search for and interaction with Divine Mystery.

I can't get into the reasons for all that in a blog comment ("Thanks goodness!" Serenity says.), but I can tell you where my own emphasis lies. I grew up thinking America ought to be a Christian nation. To me, this meant largely punishing rather than rewarding what I saw as evil so God would be pleased with us and bless us. My thinking has changed a lot. I now think trying to make America a "Christian" nation is not only arrogant and misguided, it's also meaningless; it's a distraction from anything useful I might do. Does making people "behave" make them more spiritual, or is it something else that transforms us? Does experience suggest to me that good things happen to nice people and bad things to naughty people? Does Jesus say that? My answer to all of these is "no."

When I look at the life of Jesus, the life of great people in our particular religious tradition (or any other, for that matter), what I see instead is not a focus primarily on justice, reward, and punishment, but on compassion. I see people fed, healed, cared for, and forgiven. I see people who would rather suffer hurt than hurt others. I see a table where all are welcome to come without condition, for what is more transformative than unconditional love? I see humility and the knowledge that none of us knows everything.

These things have become key values to me. When Jesus said, "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." I don't think about personal responsibility (a good thing) or justice (an important thing), or purity (a noble thing). I think about compassion, about returning human dignity to those who have lost it, about giving rather than hoarding, about thinking of something bigger than myself, about not judging because there's the slightest chance I may be less than perfect or even (gasp) wrong.

Ultimately, these are the same values I bring to political decisions. Some say, "Healthcare and food and the chance to do meaningful work are good, but they are not rights; the Constitution does not guarantee them." I agree. But for me, the question is not about rights but about the kind of society I want to be a part of. Do I want to be part of a society that gives everyone a shot at getting rich, or do I want to be part of a society that tries to make sure no one goes without food, a chance to work, or medical care? I'll let you figure out my answer. "But we have opportunity and freedom," they say. "Anyone can improve themselves if they just work at it!" Ah, so you're saying then that someday there will be no trash collectors, no firemen, no McDonald's workers, no secretaries? Of course not! Every wealthy person is wealthy not only because of their own intelligence, luck, and hard work, but also because of all the little people who make it possible for them to live as they do. (And no, I'm not a communist; I'm just not a rabid capitalist anymore!) Some people call this kind of commitment to caring for one's own a social compact, a common agreement to make a better society for all, not just for some. So I ask, does the candidate seem more inclined to help the rich and powerful or the poor and helpless? Who do they identify with and focus on? Is it more important for government to make sure companies can keep growing or to make sure those lost on the fringes are protected?

Along with this, how do we care for the world we inhabit? Do we see it as a commodity to be owned and used? Do we care more about present convenience or future survival? Are we humble enough to admit that taking more than we need now could have unforseen consequences on the lives of our children?

Now, what about abortion? I do happen to be "pro-life," but I think pro-life is more complex than one issue. What about pre-emptive war? What about torture? What about the death penalty? What about people starving and homeless in our own land? What about the fact that a total of twenty years of pro-life presidents in the last three decades has done little to overturn abortion rulings? Could it be that someone has found a way to get conservative christians to vote for their party, without really demanding anything of them? How handy is that! What if we helped people climb out of dead-end, poverty-stricken, uneducated lives? Would that do anything to reduce abortions? Would it be pro-life?

OK, enough of values. What about nuance? Basically, this is where reason comes into it for me. Idealism is fun, but we live in the real world. How practical is the candidate? Do they give glib, pat answers, or do they give thoughtful ones that makes me think and question my own opinions? Live isn't simple, are their solutions oversimplified? Do they reduce issues to a false it has to be either this or that kind of dichotomy, or are they prepared to look deeper and take more time if necessary to give an answer rather than a soundbite? What kind of people do they surround themselves with?

Are there other things I look at? Sure. Do I trust the person? Of course, our political system almost forces people to be somewhat disingenuous to get elected, but do they seem at least somewhat honest? Is the person humble, seeking help where needed and willing to consider opposing views? Do they change their mind when they are wrong or only when they need votes? Do they lean toward working in concert with others, even if they don't get everything they want out of the deal? Still, the main things to me are values and nuance.

I don't know if any of this is helpful, but I tried to be as honest as possible about my own thought processes. I'm sorry it was so long! Still, you did ask. :-)

Kathy said...

Great discussion! You know what I like best about it? Nobody is yelling at anybody or calling anyone a cheat or a liar. Why can't political discussions be this civil elsewhere? I love the idea of getting Tom and Matt together for a forum. Not because I'm that interested in politics, but I love that people with opposing views could sit down and respect one another and express their views without accusing one another of being idiots.
As for how to vote,I think you've gotten excellent advice here.Study the issues, follow your heart, and ask Michael!

Anonymous said...

Good input Sara.....Seren, I heart that speech that continues to be mentioned. I dont bring up politics in our family emails you'll notice, but I will be brave and share with you today, that I'm voting for Barack Obama, and very comfortably I might add.
I'm VERY glad we can all discuss and agree or disagree without hate. (I agree Kathy)
Trust yourself Seren, and Michael too! (I luv that kid)

Sarah said...

Well, you know which political rally I went to, so you know who I am voting for. I would love to discuss with you how I can to this conclusion, but I do believe that you have to come to your own conclusion based on being informed and trust. I tend to agree with with my friend, Lori

Kelly H-Y said...

I know this is unrelated to your current post, but I just wanted to thank you, Serenity, for your kind words on my new blog! Good luck to you as well with your writing! I agree with you ... it is certainly a long, slow path ... but, we'll get there! Love your blog, and will be checking in regularly! Take care! Kelly

serenity said...

Well, these responses have been awesome. Very well said, and I appreciated every word. I'm extremely glad I asked!

Paul Nickerson said...

Serenity, before you vote, ask someone you know who has the spiritual gift of discernment to give you a read on the character of the two men who would be president. I do not have that gift and have been fooled many times by what was a great gift of gab and an honest demeanour. This election may be a secular one, but God has gifted his church with people who can help us make these decisions.

By the way, I am really impressed with the way your friends think things through, and with their attitudes about life, and their care for you. What a rich network of relationships you have grown up knowing. Hugs from your Carolina uncle.

Widney Woman said...

This blogger gave some great links to find info on the candidates. She's voting for Obama, but she gave the info for all 4 in the spotlight.

I think it is going to take an amazing Republican to beat Obama. I don't think McCain is the strongest and best Republican candidate. Early on, I was excited about several candidates. But, for whatever reasons, they left the race. I really wish one of those others were running, instead of McCain.

John McCain has short arms. If I could vote, I couldn't vote in a man with short arms. He has to represent the most powerful nation in the world. Now, aren't you all glad I can't vote this year?

serenity said...

Uncle Paul! What a thrill to see your name here! I do have a rich network. I'm so grateful for every one of them - my Carolina uncle included.

Andrea said...

I haven’t responded to this blog right away because I have been praying about my comment, and how to word it.
First, I have to state emphatically and without apology that my reason is based on what the Bible teaches and shows in regard to mankind. I believe that the Bible is the Word of God, and as one of your earlier readers stated “there is nothing new under the sun” so, yes, I have read it, and studied it, and prayed and ask God to give me wisdom as to how and why I should vote the way I will.
I won’t be voting for the most popular candidate and my reasons are as follows.
In the history of Israel and mankind when the majority wanted something, it was usually wrong.
When Moses took the children of Israel out from Egypt and the Egyptians followed, they wanted to turn back, and give up, Moses (in the minority) took them through the water.
When they got ready to go into the Promised Land only two, Caleb and Joshua wanted to go in immediately, the majority did not. Unfortunately, 40 years later that generation, save Caleb and Joshua were not alive to enter it.
When the Israelites went out to battle over and over again, they might have been in the minority, but God was their strength, and they won at those times.
When Elijah stood up to the prophets of Baal, he was in the minority but he was also right, and won.
All the prophets were in the minority, and their messages were not popular, but they were right and the warnings they preached, were not heeded, and the nation of Israel suffered for it.
When Jesus came, the majority won and had him crucified. Of course, that was the plan all along, but God knew his children well enough to know the plan would be carried out.
I have looked at voting records and read debate transcripts, and listened to speeches in the framework of scripture.
I cannot, knowing that someday I will account for my actions to Almighty God, vote for a pro-choice candidate. I know there are people out there who will holler about the loss of life in war being equivalent to the abortion issue, but it isn’t. Jesus said that there would be wars and rumors of war, and that the poor would be with us always. These things are a part of life and always will be, due to mans selfish and sinful nature. I also know that in all the years of having a pro-life president in the White House the laws on abortion haven’t changed, but as an individual who believes that she will stand before God and give account of her life someday, could I knowingly vote for someone who on every opportunity has voted for abortion in every stance since being in office (yes I checked the voting record).
When King Ahab (said in the Bible to be the most wicked of Israel’s kings) and Jezebel were in power, the common belief of those who worshipped the Baal’s, and the nation of Israel followed, was to sacrifice children on the fiery alters to insure good crop growth, and therefore wealth, and abundance. At what price are we as a nation willing to insure what we want here and now. I know I sound like a Bible thumping right wing conservative, but history speaks for itself, and in the history of mankind the easiest way that might have prevailed most often was not the right way, and as they say, those who don’t study and know their history are doomed to repeat it.
I was taught that the things in life worth having sometimes, and most usually, do come at a great price. I have learned this lesson over and over in my life. Homeschooling my children, as only one example, was not a popular choice, nor was it an easy one, but looking back, it was the best choice.
I honestly believe that regardless of who is elected president in this election, we as a nation are going to have to live with the consequences of our choices to live in excess, and greed, and selfishness. The financial whirlwind we find ourselves in speaks of this fact. But I don’t think that throwing money at a situation, especially one that stems from our greed and excess will solve our problems.
We are now considered a “post Christian” nation. Our values as Christians, based on scripture are not the norm nor the prevailing opinion in this country any more. But it doesn’t allow those of us who believe in Almighty God, and Jesus Christ His Son, to “culturalize” our believes as the nation of Israel did when surrounded by pagan societies.
These are my thoughts on your questions, and in response to your inquiry. I will be praying for you and your choice on Nov. 4th.

serenity said...

Thank you, Andrea, for your thoughtful response and your care for me. :) Duly, duly noted.

Anonymous said...

Andrea, I think you said that beautifully. I will also vote for the "less popular" candidate for more reasons than I can name in a short post. I am not a one issue voter. However, one vote or stance can speak volumes about a person's character. Barack Obama voted no or present, on 3 separate occasions I believe, on the Born Alive Protection Act (in Illinois, 2001) that would have provided care for infants who survived abortions. I have heard Barack Obama tell us that we have the duty to care for "the least of these." Don't tiny newborn babies fit somewhere into this category of individuals that need our tenderest love and most fierce protection? If I were ambivalent on all other issues this one alone would be enough.

Cheri said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Widney Woman said...

I didn't know the reason for John McCain's arm deformity. I'm Canadian. Please forgive the Canuck.

Paul Nickerson said...

I do SO agree with Cheri's comment. When I watch John McCain it almost hurts me to see him raising his arms. One of the things that bother me is that I do not think he enjoys being his own cheerleader. "Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger and not thine own lips." (Prov 27:2 KJV) This political process that requires people to boast of their own accomplishments puts such a man at a tremendous disadvantage. That plus the comment I have received from people with the spiritual gift of discernment that he has become a man of character through the things he has suffered make me glad that he has been willing to throw himself out into the fray. In these troubled times I am going to vote for this man who has survived more than his share of trouble.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I cannot remain a silent observer any longer. Just vote Republican. Until there is a better option, we simply have to hold our ground...
Several of the bloggers have commented on how they were were moved by Obama's "Audacity of Hope" speech. Do you know who else was a moving speaker..? Another well-traveled European named Adolph. He stirred his early audiences to heights never before witnessed in modern politics. A fella named Benito was also known for his ringing tones and verbose language. They both touched off World Wars.
It is not nearly enough to captivate our enemies ears with our melodic voices. We cannot cajole the economy into the heavens with rolling syllables. On occassion it is necessary to elect someone who has actually done something! A junior high economics class is a high enough education to understand why taxing Wal-Mart will not relieve the economic burden on the middle class. When was the last time anyone saw the price of milk go down, because the cows decided to work for free? If you financially strap producers in this country you ensure a limited number of outcomes. 1) Reduced work force (unemployed people pay $0 in taxes.) 2) Increased prices. or 3) The market simply will not support a higher price tag and the cost of labor is too high. So producers simply shut down and walk away. The premise of most businesses is after all to make money. When this becomse impossible, "business" owners will not continue to operate at a defecit. No matter which outcome, the middle class suffers. Its time that democrats learn this is not a static economy.
There is no need for discussion in regard to values. Un-born babies cannot be compared to twice convicted murderers. Their lives DO have different values.
In regard to foreign policy, how much do we need to undertand about the candidates? McCain was available when his country really needed him (his blood not just a pep-talk.) Obama launched his political career in the home of a man who was once awarded a ring by McCains captors. The ring was made of metal from US aircrafts shot down by communists.
In regard to spiritual belief, no political party corners the market on Christianity. However, the fact remains that one of them is running a man who whispered prayerfully to his savior for 6 years while being bruttally beaten on a regular basis by his goddless captors. The other man wasn't in his own church often enough in 20 years to learn that his chief spiritual advisor hated white people and had a habit of screaming GD America from the pulpit.


Wagon Repairman

serenity said...

For anyone still following this post, my dear friend Cheri ended up deleting her comment about John McCain (for not against) because she felt she wrote it too hurriedly and that it was too forceful. Simone, I didn't know the reason either, so you weren't alone in that.

And I'm very curious about Wagon Repairman, previously only a silent observer. I want you to know I really respect your comments, and I'm glad you felt you could share them here.