Magnolia trees The Danny Sims Blog

Here are my occasional insights, stories, conversations, perspectives, ideas, reflections, theological musings. And whatever else I might post.

Friday, May 14, 2021

See this. Please.

Seeing the world primarily through the lens of politics is a terrible way to go about life.

I’m not naïve. But I’m no ideologue either. Politics is a brutal reality. A blood sport. A vicious rodeo populated by power seekers and influence brokers. Politicians perpetually promise to affect governance for the better. They don’t have a good track record. Yet politics has become more and more central to American culture. Perhaps social media is to blame.

There is good politics and bad politics. No one escapes this reality, no one can live outside its impact. Ask Germans to reflect on 1933 and ponder the importance of politics, if there is good and bad.

The late Charles Krauthammer said, “To understand the workings of American politics, you have to understand this fundamental law: Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservatives are evil.” How true that is. Yet Krauthammer, one of my favorite political thinkers, insisted the loyal opposition is an essential concept to liberal democracy.

But I’m not really writing here about politics. I’m writing about what happens when politics becomes the lens through which you see personal expression and meaning. When this occurs it’s like the frog in the kettle and you are the last to notice. But the people around you see it. You slowly become less kind, less caring, more thoughtless.

Why? Because you talk and write in terms of binary choices and outcomes. Red or blue. Trump or not. Ally or enemy. Vaccine or freedom. You don’t just pick sides; you demand everyone else pick a side. And if they don’t want to, you’re liable to call them weak or indecisive.

I’ve been accused of taking certain political positions I have not taken. You too? People jump to conclusions and say all kinds of incendiary things. We punish people who hold opinions different from ours. And sometimes insist they have certain opinions, even as they insist they do not.

While there might be many reasons, one stands out: politics is the primary lens through which many people view life and all its relationships and complexities. Faith and family have become subservient to politics. As have virtue and ethics. Along with decency and the common good.

Social media doesn’t help. It complicates. People type horrible things in social media they would never say sitting down for a drink. And there’s some irony there. Politics is the libation that has prompted good and kind people to behave like mean drunks.

I often return to advice Condoleezza Rice gave us when she visited Abilene in 2014. She urged us to read, watch and listen to a variety of news sources. Great advice.

I’ll add this: intentionally listen to voices you disagree with. And be kind. Don’t type everything that comes to your mind while on social media. And for the sake of your relationships, treat other people the way you want to be treated. Life is so much more than the binary choices as seen through the lens of contemporary politics. Look out for the loyal opposition.

How you look at the world doesn’t just define the world. It defines you.