Living in spite of politics

The past month has been truly enlightening and inspiring. I watched “The Incredibles,” and a sentence stuck with me: “Go change the world, one policy at a time.”

I am continually fascinated by the capabilities of compartmentalization in our governmental facilities. During Christmas break, I had the opportunity to look at the world through the lens of the C-Span Broadcasting Network to see how appointed representatives display their public selves in their framing of political debates. I find that many in the public realm, you and I, have vast amounts of ignorance when it comes to specific policies, clauses and proposals laid out by lobbyists and politicians. The processes and bureaucratic formalities seem almost incoherent when one has not been fully immersed in the political culture of folks who have made life-long careers out of getting invested in the subtleties of the governmental process. I am leery of this perceived reality.

In November, millions of Americans performed their “civic duty.” During this time, I learned a valuable idea: the campaign trail is not a purely academic endeavor. Campaign trails leave behind snippets and phrases, and the public seems to focus on seven major issues in our American discourses. I find this deeply problematic.

Recently I asked fellow students if they could name any policies or acts passed in the last 20 years besides Obergfell v. Hodges and No Child Left Behind. Silence and discomfort generally followed this question. I believe this inability to name, or even see, the practical implications of governmental policies that directly affect millions of individuals and commonly display groups of people as singular categories should not be the outworkings of a functional government that is truly “for the people.”

It is my opinion that politics are not convenient narratives, catchy phrases or even in-depth policy descriptions. There are strong ties between theological and political abstraction, as well as their respective correct conduct. With this in mind, I believe the best thing individuals can do is focus on strife in our own communities.

Interactions between those you consider “the other” are one of the healthiest things individuals who feel cut-off from singular narratives can receive every single day. Understanding is gained through a concern for differences in gendered and religious ways of being, but we can only gain that if efforts to produce strong emotional and spiritual ties are being invested in.

A willingness to be uncomfortable and humble in our interactions produces the ability to see people as valid in their experiences without talking past one another. This is needed most in our divisive social climate. Lean into the silence and learn to ask good questions. It is only when we are in silence that other voices can penetrate our minds. We can be educated by the experiences of those who differ from our own lived realities, when we begin to get out of singular convenient narratives and search for nuance by viewing “the other” as complex and valuable.