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Friday, October 26, 2012

A Plea for Political Passion and Humility

One of my neighbors recently put up a yard sign for the Romney-Ryan ticket. Another neighbor put up a yard sign for a Democratic senate candidate. My Facebook and Twitter feeds are filled with passionate people supporting their candidates.

I’m glad people are passionate about politics because the political process matters. If you don’t believe that, consider how much of your earnings go toward property tax, income tax, automobile tax, gasoline tax, sales tax, communications tax, “sin” taxes, and nearly anything that moves tax. And then there are inheritance taxes, capital gains taxes, and the like. Also, consider the regulations your political leaders set: gun regulations, market regulations, banking regulations, insurance regulations, food safety regulations, employment regulations, trade regulations, environmental regulations, rental property regulations, airport regulations, zoning regulations, licenses and permits and there’s no way to include an exhaustive list here, but you get the point.

Taxes and regulations are necessary, and, dare I say good in many cases. We want safe roads, food, and airports and we need tax money to make that happen. But, everyone would agree we have to draw the line on taxes and regulations somewhere. That’s where our political leaders step in. If you choose the wrong ones, they might draw the line somewhere other than where you prefer or somewhere other than where the U.S. or your state constitution allows.

So, yes politics matter.

But for one reason or another, some of us never got involved in the political process. Some of us have become jaded by the political process and checked out. Some of us believe our political party left us, leaving us as political nomads. Some of us only listen to one side of the argument. In fact, too many of us only listen to only one side of the argument. Some of us vote based on sound bites, likability or political advertisements rather than doing the research ourselves. Some of us are new to the political process and have no historical reference points to realize where our political movement came from, so we have no idea if it is heading in the right direction or not. And some of us have never read the U.S. Constitution or our state constitution, so we have no idea what our political leaders are swearing to uphold.

We’re all in different places. I respect passionate, well informed, kind people who are in process, even if I disagree with them politically, but I cringe during the election season when I hear passionate, sometimes informed, sometimes uninformed, vitriolic people who cannot have a dialogue with people on the other side.

It is possible to be confident and firm in your belief without being mean-spirited. Just as a soft answer turns away wrath, a spirit of humility in a political conversation builds bridges and if a bridge exists, both sides have somewhere to meet to continue the conversation.


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