For many years, as a mother of four, I dreaded this time of year. The excitement and cheerful decorations of Christmas are long gone. The green and sunshine of spring seem a still distant hope. When the kids were little, these were long and grey winter days with no snow spent wishing for sledding and igloos to help burn off some of that seemingly endless childhood energy. The long and grey days with lots of snow were spent stuffing kids in and out of snow pants and wishing they would just stay inside. But my greatest dread was sickness. Inevitably, we would schedule a playdate, spend several lovely hours with friends only to have someone throw up all over one of the kids as we were saying goodbye. Okay, that never actually happened, but there did seem to be a proportional relationship between the frequency of playdates and the chances of my kids getting sick. In order to avoid whatever gut-spilling, bowel-emptying plague which was currently laying siege to our circle of friends, I would become hyper-vigilant regarding contact with others. If I saw the slightest hint of illness, runny nose, sneezing, unidentified ooze leaking from any orifice, I would yell “Retreat!” and hustle the kids off as quickly as possible, giving the offending orifice a wide berth large enough to drive the Titanic through…sideways.
This season of political divisiveness and strife has me living in the same nerve-fraying state of alertness. Politics has become a virus from which I would like to be immunized or, better yet, simply avoid all together. I know this is not the way of the informed citizen and might seem a complete shirking of my civic duties, but I’m ready to at least use a few sick days. It isn’t that I don’t care about the issues being debated. Quite the reverse. The stakes have never seemed so high: illegal immigration which encompasses national security, our legacy as a nation of immigrants, and the fate of those caught in the middle; racial equality; issues of religious freedom and tolerance; abortion; gun control; and the list goes on. All matters of vital importance and deserving of our attention. Nevertheless, on a fairly regular basis, I dream of leaving others to solve our problems and packing up husband, kids and dogs (sorry cat, you are on your own) and heading to hill country with a lifetime supply of dehydrated beef stroganoff and the complete works of Sir Conan Doyle.
I know that in the last two hundred plus years of our nation’s history there have been times of greater political division (e.g., the Civil War, Vietnam, etc.). But what I find so maddening about our current political divide, beyond the character assassinations and untethered vitriol on both sides of the aisle, is its ever-pervasive presence. Go to the movies or turn on the television and you’ll have some high school dropout lecturing you about the environment or gun control or the “wage gap.” Try to watch sports and you’ll have it turned into a political exercise about racial prejudice. You can’t even shop for school supplies or buy a cupcake without declaring your support or disapproval of one side or the other. Every corner of our culture has been infected with politics. In other words, there is no common ground. There is no place to meet in the middle and enjoy a laugh or well-played game. Everywhere is a pulpit and everyone a preacher.
I’m not denying anyone’s right to use whatever platform they have been given to propagate their particular perspective. I only ask they consider the context in which they do so. We watch movies for their artistic and entertainment value, not to be indoctrinated but to be enlightened and uplifted. We watch sports to be amazed and inspired, to feel a part of so larger than ourselves, not to be lectured and subdivided.
Maybe if we spent a little more time on common ground, rooting for the home team, laughing together, enjoying the same musical or theatrical experience, we might find the road to political compromise a little less rocky. Maybe those moments of shared experience will be just what the doctor ordered.