Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Politics and Purpose

“Politics, it seems to me, for years, or all too long, has been concerned with right or left instead of right or wrong.”

Richard Armour

“We have, I fear, confused power with greatness.”

Stewart Udall

“I have come to the conclusion that politics is too serious a matter to be left to the politicians.”

Charles de Gaulle

Okay, I tried.  I tried to write about something else other than Purpose.  I really did.  I started writing about the government shutdown and politics and I just couldn’t.  I even borrowed this nifty quote from Anne Lamott:
First of all, the writers need to keep writing. We cannot let you off the hook just because of our collective Confusion. We need you now more than ever: Barry Lopez said that when all is said and done, all we have to help us are stories, and compassion. So get back to work! Short assignments, shitty first drafts; just do it.

And then I started writing my political views because I thought, “Surely, people are tired of hearing about Purpose and I should branch out and do something different.”
And then I realized that politics is not my message.  In fact, though I’m an amateur Presidential historian, I hate politics.  I hate how it divides the country and I hate how it puts me into a rage.  Rage and Passion are similar.  They can both control me, but Passion compels me to build and create, not destroy. 
I also think of the Israelites who wanted to be like the other nations and so they asked God for a king to rule over them.  Sometimes I think that’s what we as Americans, we as human beings want, too.  We want someone to hold our collective hands and lead the way.  I know I’ve wanted that.  I’ve wanted a father figure or a mentor to show me what to do.  I think of three different things I heard, the first two of which were spoken directly to me:
“Who taught you to raise yourself?”
“You don’t need a mentor.  Just publish your books!”
“I am the man I have been looking for.”
Perhaps the Republicans would like the idea of self-reliance, since they preach it all the time.  I don’t know.  I don’t want to talk about politics.  It’s not why I was born.  It is the reason others were born, but it’s not my reason.  I was born to write and to encourage.  Those are the things I have to stay focused on.  In fact, I think that political discussions are much like television.  They are meant to distract us and keep us from our Purpose.
I’m not advocating that we as citizens excuse ourselves completely from the political process.  I think it’s important to cast an informed vote.  I don’t care for political apathy.  But political involvement, like most things, takes time and attention.  In addition, one of two phenomenon occur when trying to understand political issues:
1.                     People vote based on personal history or preference, rather than making an informed decision.
2.                     When people do try to make an informed decision, there is an overwhelming amount of information, much of it contradictory.

I know there are often good arguments and good people on both sides of the political spectrum.  What I find most disturbing is that rarely do people find a middle ground.  Politics is the secular version of religion. 
So I try to stay out of it.  One day perhaps I’ll become more involved and go beyond voting, but right now political involvement isn’t what brings me peace.  It isn’t a way for me to help people feel better or motivated to do more with their lives.  My writing is.  My radio shows are.  So these are the things I do.  These are where my Purpose lies.
I’m grateful for those who enter the political arena with Purpose.  Unfortunately, as in many arenas, people enter politics for the wrong reason.  Or perhaps they entered with good intentions but then got diverted by greed and opportunity.  I don’t know.  I just know the world is a mess right now and our “leaders” (should be “servants”) can’t seem to agree on anything.  Meanwhile, the government is shut down and the nation is divided.  Everyone says we should throw them all out and start over again, but who would we elect?  Would they be any better?  Will someone new have a different human nature?
We don’t need different leaders.  We need our current leaders to act differently.  We need leaders who serve with Purpose and love, not with self-interest.  We need leaders who can Get Started and Keep Going in order to make the country and the world a better place. 
And each of us needs to do the same.