How To Grow Your Political Balls

It’s a presidential election year here in the US!  Which means it’s party time. For me, anyway.

Elections are my Super Bowl; when the debates and conventions take over prime time television, I whip out the junk food, plant myself on the couch, get pulled into the drama, and stay up late at night to watch the “post-game” analysis. I’m one step away from wearing a jersey and some face paint.

This is bad news for my husband, Brian. Because when the only thing more powerful than a man’s video game addiction is his wife’s addiction to coverage of presidential elections, he begins wishing there were a second TV in the house.

Brian knows that following the election with me is stressful. It means he must listen to speeches from the presidential candidate and political party we will NOT be voting for this November– an activity which tends to send his blood pressure through the roof. Despite my concern for his health, I don’t fast forward through those speeches. I watch them from start to finish, rewind the important parts, and hit “pause” to discuss each major point.

See, ever since I began researching and advocating for Peace & Justice last year, I’ve been making a concerted effort to immerse myself in subcultures that hold seemingly opposite views to mine. It’s taught me 4 very important lessons:

  • Your “opponents” are not as awful and foolish as you think they are.
  • The stereotypes you believe about your opponents are just as unfair as the stereotypes they believe about you.
  •  The other team actually has some good ideas.
  • It’s wise to blend their best ideas with your best ideas.

It’s easy to only seek out information that affirms your existing beliefs. But it’s brave to acknowledge that you don’t know the whole truth. And it’s even braver to step out of your comfort zone to find it.

So for me, following politics holds great potential for personal growth. And that’s a compelling reason to keep the TV on, even as my husband shakes and convulses from video game withdrawal.

Following politics, however, is not always easy. A frustrated friend on Facebook posted the following status update: Political ads are giving me a headache. I’m finally going to be able to vote in the presidential elections this November and I don’t know who to vote for. Who’s lying…who’s not…or who’s lesser of the 2 evils…. Grrrr!

All I can tell my friend is that both sides are lying a little (mostly by omission) for the sake of winning more votes. Half-truths make great sounding speeches because they appeal to our emotions and our biases, not logic.

So it’s your job to hear all sides (including the ones that challenge your existing ideas), and to find the missing pieces of all those half-truths.  Listen with a critical ear to all the carefully crafted speeches and biased media outlets, and do your own research. Oh, and if you really want to get fancy, learn about the psychology of your political biases. Do this and your vote will be cast wisely.

Truth starts at the intersection of everyone’s needs and opinions. Political balls are about having the patience and humility to listen.

Your Turn: What roles do wisdom and courage play in your politics?

 

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9 Responses to How To Grow Your Political Balls

  1. Amy says:

    I want to give you a kiss and a big hug. I’m working on this area. I was previously a political news junkie. My mother told me I wasn’t permitted to talk politics with my dad, his face turned red and I was going to give him a heart attack. My dad (the other) once said it confounded him that someone he thought was so smart could vote so stupid… and that was the beginning of the end of partisanship for me… when two people who love each other argue over the opinions of people who lose no sleep when we’re in the hospital or will never rescue us along the highway from a flat tire, well that just opened my eyes.

    Recently I was polled over the phone about medicare and asked which action bothered me most… I said, “They’re both lying. Neither program will eliminate medicare – it’s just a big lie.” That felt good.

    I touch base on the political news scene just a little, because really – they’re just saying the same thing over and over again for hours. And, I’m talking to voters for the “other”. I have a wonderfully “far” voter of the “other” as a friend on Facebook. It is my wish to keep us talking so we might find our similarities and connections.

    I just have delicate little political balls at the moment…. but they’re still bigger than they were a year ago! Debates are like a cold shower to them just now, and we know how embarrassing that can be!

    • Kimberly Eclipse says:

      Hey, I commend you for your “delicate little political balls”! It takes guts to look at the big picture and allow politics to shape you into a more compassionate person as opposed to a less compassionate one. And yet, you’re still interested in engaging with, and growing from, your “political other” at carefully selected times, and with carefully selected people. Kudos!

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  3. You Know Me says:

    If there is one thing that has brought tremendous pain, conflict and brokenness to our world, it is our tendency to polarize ourselves. Our divisions of rich and poor, men and women, believer and non-believer, gay and straight, western and eastern, white and black, powerful and weak, have done little to help us, but have left war, hunger, homelessness, and hatred in their wake. Yet, the Scriptures show clearly this week that God is the God of all, and God’s grace and mercy are available to all. Unfortunately even in working for justice we have too easily allowed ourselves to become part of the polarization – caricaturing our opponents in order to denounce and attack them in the hopes that this will help us to “win” a victory over them. This divisiveness has filtered through everything from theological and political discourse, to economic confrontation and even social activism. We need to recapture the radical inclusivity of the Gospel, following Jesus in his openness to serve and love even the rejected, marginalized and “unclean”. We need to find a new Gospel-inspired collaboration across ideology, geography and economic status in order to address the great challenges facing us. And we need to allow the Church to become, once again, a welcome home for all who seek after God and God’s ways, rather than an exclusive in-group trying to keep God for ourselves. It does not heal the world for us to hoard our wealth or our faith, while pointing judgmental fingers at those who are different from us. It does heal the world when we take the hands of others, and seek to connect with and understand them, in spite of our differences. May we constantly seek to allow our worship to change us in the direction of greater compassion, service and inclusivity.

    • Kimberly Eclipse says:

      YES!!!

      Also, after immersing myself in the subculture of my political other, I’ve become more sensitive to when people on “my side” use divisive and polarizing language too. Very dangerous. Still getting to a place, however, where I’m okay with the fact that people will inevitably feel divided– and angry– because of firmly (but respectfully) communicated ideas. Reminds me of a comment you left on another post, that you can’t control how other people feel. As I always say: Workin’ on it!

  4. Sheryl says:

    I’m very concerned about the social issues that come up in elections, particularly the debates that go on about women’s health and reproductive rights. Politics, if you get involved beyond just voting, absolutely force you to stand up for your own beliefs and defend them – which can involve a lot of courage, when speaking with people who think you’re something of a monster because of your stance. There’s also some wisdom in knowing when to let the conversation slide, because some debates with some people just aren’t worth it.

    • Kimberly Eclipse says:

      Amen! To everything you said. Yes, courage (whether that means “standing up” or “letting things slide” or remembering that neither you nor the other guy are monsters) can be tricky, but definitely worth the effort.

  5. Boyd says:

    I absolutely HATE politics (they give me tired head) due to their polarizing nature and the worst side of people that they can often bring out but I love the dialogue and reflection that they bring. Hearing opposing views is incredibly helpful in helping me to better understand my own point of view. It’s real easy to just say, “I think that way because it’s the right way to think”, without considering the other side of the coin. By considering different opinions, I have to reflect on why my opinion is different and whether that opinion is a true reflection of my beliefs.

    • Kimberly Eclipse says:

      Yeah, politics definitely brings out the best and worst in people. (Including in myself.) But you’re right– there is so much to be gained by being involved in the conversation in a wise way. You hit the nail on the head for me as to why I like immersing myself in the subculture of the “other”; when I see how their politics influence their integrity and level of compassion (whether positively or negatively), it turns a mirror to myself and my own behaviors and opinions.

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