Thursday, April 6, 2017

4.5 Politics and the Prodigal Son

Lately, I’ve noticed that there’s been a kind of internet glee surrounding every chip to the Trump administration. Steve Bannon taken off the Security Council. Jeff Sessions recusing himself from a Russia investigation. Michael Flynn asking for immunity. It all feels like it’s going to add up to some sort of downfall to the Trump administration, even though it hasn’t yet. Of course, these little setbacks for Trump have been coupled with terrible actions for the other side, travel bans, EPA cuts, etc.

It’s angered me. And I’ve felt resentment towards Trump voters. So have many of my Facebook friends. I know that hardly any of my friends voted for the man, but I know a few of my family members did.

I’ve noticed a few people who have washed their hands of Trump voters and everything they stood for. I understand it, especially if you’re a person of color or a woman. I get why you just want to disengage and give in to resentment.

But I saw a piece on social media that caught my eye. It was called “Compassion and Politics” Nathan Robinson on the website Current Affairs. In it, he argues that the Democratic party has swayed away from being the party that cares about people. There’s a large swath of people that wants to give up on the opioid-riddled communities and small towns that don’t have much left. There’s a part of me that wanted to as well. When I lived in a small town in southwest Minnesota, there were more than a few towns that I saw and asked myself, “What is this doing here?” There wasn’t much other than a gas station and some bars that hadn’t updated the decor since the Carter administration.

Robinson quotes the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer to raise a point, “May all living beings delivered from pain.” I agree with him that that is a good place to start.

I also started a new book by one of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott. It’s called “Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy.” In the opening chapter, she talks about the story of the Prodigal Son. For those who didn’t attend Sunday school, it’s the story of two brothers and a father. One brother stays at home, follows the rules and goes on to have a prosperous life. Another brother takes his share of inheritance, blows it on booze and gambling and then returns home. While the homebound brother expects the other one to be admonished by his dad, the exact opposite happens. The father throws a feast for the brother’s return.

How many times have liberals felt like that older brother in the last few months? We didn’t do anything wrong. We voted for the right candidate and everyone who didn’t should suffer for their choices. It's a completely justifiable feeling, but it's not a sustainable path for a more empathetic and just society where all living beings are delivered from pain.

I don’t know if I’m ready to throw a party yet for Trump voters, but I know I could add a big dollop of empathy in my interactions and thoughts.