You hate our president. I know the feeling well.
I hated our previous president. His policies struck me as wrong-headed, and his way of expressing himself rubbed me the wrong way almost every time. Perhaps you can relate.
A month or two ago, when Osama Bin Laden was killed and our current president was being hailed as a hero, I couldn’t help but think of you. I pictured you sitting in your living room watching the news and stewing. The fact that I imagined you stewing had nothing to do with you, or anything you’ve said or done. I imagined you stewing because I remember a day in 2003 when Saddam Hussein was captured, and I was listening to the news and stewing. You see, even though I understood on some level that Saddam was an evil leader who’d used poison gas on his own people, and therefore that it was a good thing for him to be removed from power, I couldn’t help but feel this capture was a justification of the war and its president–both of which I deeply opposed. There were moments when I hoped the war would fail, despite the good it might bring to the Iraqi people. That didn’t matter. My own psychic battle with this president was the more important battle.
I remember being in high school when the St. Louis Cardinals won what was then Major League Baseball’s eastern division. I was a Cubs fan, and I found it intolerable that the Cubs’ heated rival had won the division. I told my dad I was rooting for the Dodgers to beat the Cardinals in the playoffs.
“No,” he said. “We root for the Cardinals now.”
“What?” I said. “I’ll never root for the Cardinals.”
“They represent our division,” he said. “That’s why we root for them.”
I didn’t care what he said. I didn’t root for the Cardinals then, and I still don’t.
But in 1998, as I became more aware of the political culture of our country, I started to understand what my dad was saying. He was trying to teach me that competing doesn’t have to result in the utter defeat of those we compete against. In fact, in most cases it shouldn’t. When it comes right down to it, we’re not fans of the Cubs or Cardinals or any other team as much as we’re fans of baseball. If the Cardinals or Dodgers or even (gasp!) the Yankees play some good baseball and win the World Series, baseball wins. That this sentiment seems so old-fashioned speaks volumes about our current political discourse.
I have no doubt, Tea Partiers, you have your reasons for hating this president. I had mine for hating the last. But I believe the truth of these matters transcends all that. It’s not a political party’s job to give us the truth. It’s its job to get us to vote for its candidates. They can do that with the truth, or with half-truths, or with lies. It doesn’t really matter to them. As long as we pull the lever for their candidate, they win.
Somewhere deep inside both or us, somewhere that doesn’t know or care about this president, or the last president, or the president before that, we know this. It hides from us a lot, especially in a political climate that has both parties stirring up hatred for the other. The truth lies outside this politics. It’s what you and I share when we strip away all that trumped up anger and we’re left with nothing but our common sense and common decency. That’s where our hope lies.
You may read this, Tea Partiers, consider it, and maybe even agree with some of it. But you’re like me; you’ll go back to your well-heeled political nest, where things are warm and comfortable. You’ll lash out at this president, or the last president, or the next president, enjoying the warmth and comfort. It’s so much easier, isn’t it? And that’s just how our current political industry wants us: ready to fight for them on a dime, reveling in the heat of our words, not caring what they burn.