For the past several months I have been writing as if politics – and most things in life – are a game. I do believe politics is a game, and we are its naive audience, but I want to dig a little closer to home, in fact, the home that we have built for ourselves.
Those of us who watch sports typically have a “home team.” This is the team we pull for, cheer for when they do well and get depressed when they do bad. We wear their colors, emblems and put there face on our cars. We go to bars and gatherings to be around other people who cheer for the same team. We read their exploits in the days papers and blogs. We obsess ourselves with them. My own father, who I believe to be a great man, did this with the Atlanta Braves – he had a schedule in his church office which he dutifully marked wins and losses on, magic numbers and the like.
Our own ideologies become a home team for us. Whether it is political, religious or other, we cheer when our “team” does well, and we riot when they do not. We absolutely hate the other team or teams, and we do it with a smile on our face. We do not notice when the other teams do well in light of hardship, we only notice that they are doing better then “us.” See, we identify with our home team, we make them our own. A little personal background – I attended the University of Georgia, home of the Georgia Bulldogs. When I watch them play football and talk about them, it is not them, but us. It becomes personal, and likewise, when we discuss our home team in politics, religion or other, it becomes personal.
We take possession, and thus exert some sort of presence, over our home team, and we do the same thing with politics and religion. We get offended when someone feels or thinks differently then us. We justify those who carry the banner for our beliefs by bringing in external forces – such as God in politics, and politics in religion. We barricade ourselves with mascots and emblems. It is not enough to support, we feel we must rally ourselves to the cause, and in doing so, tear down everything that is in our way.
I read an interesting article that talked about Jihad. Jihad, the Arabic word meaning “struggle against sin in regards to one’s self.” is the word used in the Bible if it is translated into Arabic. It is not a strictly Islamic word, nor strictly a word meaning “holy war.” Obviously, those who are part of the “Muslim Home Team” have taken the word and put it to their own purpose, and likewise, those of us who are not in favor of Islam have in turn, taken the word to turn it against them. But, in the end, it is just that, a word, the describes in one language the struggle we all face every day – that is the struggle within ourselves not to sin… the struggle to not do bad things. Other buzz words capture our attention and warrant our wrath – “healthcare,” “climate change,” “liberal,” “conservative,” etc, expressed within political ideologies become emblems of hate as well as pride, depending on which team is we claim to possess. “Catholic,” “Protestant,” “Muslim,” “Jew,” etc do the same thing religiously. We take words and make them fit our ideological thesis, using some for praise and others as an attack, and we do so with a smile on our face.
Here is a newsflash: Republicans are no better or worse then Democrats, and like wise those who claim to be Independent. In politics, they are all part of the same game, the game that is not designed to suit the needs of a nation but rather a political platform. Likewise, with religion, Roman Catholics are no better then Protestants, and vice versa… Christians are no better then Muslims, Jews or any other religious archetype, and again, vice versa. I know this because I see those who claim superiority in politics, religion or both do and say things that do not match a greater moral compass. We see Democrats taking advantage of the poor, we see Republicans scheming to enrich themselves, we see the political system here in the United States only concern itself with power, and not actually serving the people. We see Protestant community leaders using escort services, we see Roman Catholic leaders engaging in pedophilia, we see supposedly devout Muslim men blowing themselves up, and we see Jews investing themselves in political devices. Now, obviously, this is not everyone who adheres to these different ideologies, and there are those in all of these different systems – followers of these teams – who are really good people. People who are there to serve their fellow man, people who give all so others may rise above their station in life, those who preach peace and forgiveness, and those who do real good works. As it is often aid, a few bad apples should not bring down the whole harvest, yet for those of us on opposite teams, we consistently use those few bad apples to demonize the entire orchard. Why? Because we are on a different team of course
To put it in a more personal perspective: I see Republicans and Democrats on social media destroy each other, every day. I have friends who are Republicans who will tell you that certain Democrats are the antichrist. Likewise, Democrat friends of mine will tell you the same thing about Republicans – all the while missing the fact that those veryu same people in Washington D.C. we love to praise cavort daily with those on the other team (Yes, I know what cavort means). Religiously, we rail against those who belief differently then us – even worse against those who we believe to be lesser then us within the same belief structure. Then we wonder why people hate us, we wonder why they rebelled in the first place. We will defend our side to the death – revealing as little truth as possible for the other side, all the while proclaiming facts that make our side look correct. Though I am not here to discuss the Protestant Reformation (or rebellion depending which side you are on), let us be clear, both sides were right and wrong at the same time, and lets be even more honest, neither side fixed the ultimate problem within the Christian Church herself. In regards to other religions, we fail to realize the true historic context for the formation and rise of Islam, we fail to understand why Judaism still exists and thrives. We only see our team through jaded eyes, and we only see the other teams through lenses fogged by our own belief system.
Again, our team is no better then the other teams. Not because we may not be right or correct in our beliefs, but because we have put them ahead of everyone else in our own mind. Lets just say that I, as a Roman Catholic, am right, and that Roman Catholicism is the perfect home for Christianity. Roman Catholicism has it right, and everyone else is wrong. At best, those who belief in the same God as I do but follow a different practice are less then I, but still have salvation. Likewise, I am a moderate Republican, and my views on healthcare, climate change (its real people), social issues, economic issues are the one true way to believe, and everything else is wrong. Only my beliefs are right, only my beliefs will bring peace and prosperity to the nation. Let’s just pretend that within these two belief systems that I am ideologically 100% spot on. This would mean that no one else who believes any differently then me has anything to add. Nothing of worth anyways. It means, in truth, that they are just a waste of space and air. It means that when I sit down with them to discuss issues it can;t be a discussion, but rather it must be a lecture, for their views and beliefs are wrong, and mine are right. The same goes for those who share my ideology but have differing opinions on certain things – For my beliefs are obviously the correct ones. With this type of viewpoint, we engage in tactics that not only separate ourselves from those who belief differently, but ultimately purge those around us who may not agree with us 100%. Essentially, looking st this as our home team, we determine that the player who does not share the same exact values as myself needs to be traded or released.
In the end, only one team wins the Super Bowl or the World Series, and more often then not, it is not the team we designate as our home team. Why? Because in sports, just like real life, no matter how good something looks on paper, or how right something may be, our side does not always win. In the end, we cry in our beer or water or diet coke, and we hang up our flags and jackets until next time, unless of course the commercials are to be believed and we are on the winning side, then we go make babies. We do continue to talk trash about other teams and players, we keep bringing them down and lifting our teams up, and the cycle continues. In real life, the cycle is much worse. We attack and belittle those who compete against us – in fact, the fact that it is a competition at all is part of the problem, at least religiously. Politically the competition may be necessary, but it does not need to be vile or cut throat, but that is what it is, for that is what it always has been. Same goes for religion – the competition is maddening. The cross-over is even worse, with religion invading politics, ensuring that ideologies stay lit with an unquenchable fire, and politics invading religion, ensuring that humanity, instead of God, always has a place in the center.
In the end we must remember that no one is perfect – Not the President of the United States, not his or her chief antagonist on the other side of the aisle, not His Holiness the Pope, not the Evangelical preacher on TV, not the Imam at the mosque downtown and not the Rabbi at the synagogue. Not our parents, not our teachers, not our friends – none of us are perfect, for we are all human, and whether you are religious or not, we have all fallen at some point in our lives, and we will continue to fail, even as we succeed, for it is our nature to do so, If we can move beyond ourselves and our pride, maybe, just maybe, we can come to a table of discussion and bring just that, real discussion. Realizing that even though we may be right, we may also be crazy, and we may be the person that the other side was looking for to actually have a real discussion on what ails us, and not some hyperbole that only enhances one position over another (I know, I butchered Billy Joel, for that I apologize but will keep it in there). We don’t have to agree on anything at first but to simply agree to disagree and keep the channels of communication open, meaning we must stop attacking one another and begin to defend one another in our right to think for ourselves, even if that means laying down what we believe so that we do not argue in hate, but discuss in love. Even Senator John McCain, while running for President of the United States, laid down his own chances of winning an election to defend future President Barack Obama against those who wished to vilify him incorrectly. In doing so, he became the better man, and my hope is that we, can become the better people.