I Don’t Believe in Political Saviors

I get accused of being highly idealistic quite a lot.

It’s a fair accusation as I am highly idealistic. Due to my strong belief in Heaven, when I look at the world I live in I see ideals half realized. I see people longing to be loved and who I believe will be loved far beyond what they can imagine and well beyond what they deserve; because I believe them to be created by God who is love. I see purpose, promise and adventure behind what strikes others as common or even repulsive in its poverty.

But today I wanted to discuss a different sort of idealism, the political idealism that always sweeps around the presidential election season. Regardless of your personal politics, the quest for a political savior to single-handedly solve all the world’s problems by November the following year drives.me.crazy. Not only does social media make the process even more obnoxious, but the waves of idealism are too much even for me.

For starters, I can’t stand the “It’s Time for a Woman” President similar to last year’s “It’s Time for an African American” President. Would it be a cool and historic thing to have that happen? Most certainly. But do you know what I think it’s time for? Something cool, retro, and that the world hasn’t seen for decades and certainly not in my lifetime: a good president.

In my limited experience, American politics is a cross between a joke and a bad dream you can’t wake up from.

But it’s not just the establishment’s fault. Networks wouldn’t insist on showing those “debates” on T.V. if no one watched them. I never know who is more ambiguous, the voters or the politicians themselves. Most I encounter claim to want change but never talk about what sort of change or how to attain it. Instead, they all seem to prefer falling in love with the flowery rhetoric that requires no actual commitment because it’s easier than agreeing on an acceptable standard to determine what would constitute acceptable results/progress for any sort of change in the first place. Politicians can’t be held accountable if the people themselves give them nothing tangible to accomplish. Politicians won’t offer anything tangible because true change, true action, would risk alienating certain members of their voter base as it is impossible to please everyone.

If this weren’t true to some degree than Donald Trump would have zero appeal to voters as a candidate. While his idea to build a wall to keep immigrants may well be the worst, most un-American thing I’ve ever heard it is something tangible. Walls are either built or they are not. He doesn’t waste voters time talking about how walls are nice, or how walls work for some people but not others and how we need to respect all people’s opinions on walls.

And Trump is a frightening prospect because I don’t see any love or respect for anything other than himself and selfish men do not make good leaders. Neither do selfish women, in the spirit of equality.

But on the opposite end of the spectrum, the true inspiration behind this post was that so many on Twitter today were “feeling the Bern” and promoting him as a moral candidate by virtue of his pushing for a moral economy.

This is exactly the type of feel good rhetoric that makes me sad to be a millennial because we fall for it like the idiotic rats following the pied piper to their death because they were so enamored with his song. (That’s just one of my standard corny metaphors used to illustrate my point I do not mean to imply that Bernie Sanders would kill any millennials). “Feelin the Bern” is the perfect example of how everybody gets so caught up in their ideals, such as the vague notions of love and connectivity he promotes in his speaking engagements, that they lose touch with reality. He may have an eloquent message but I would rather be sold an honest truth than a pleasing lie. Because in spite of what the current culture would have you believe you can’t mandate morals. You can’t make a moral economy by forcing vaguely ethical requirements on corporations. The truth that no one wants to discuss is that you make a moral economy by making moral men and women and the unpopularity of this truth, I would argue, is directly tied to the fact that this job cannot be done by the state. And the reason that the state cannot do this is because it adheres to Enlightenment principals of liberty and a government neutral in matters of religion. However, the interesting result of that concept is that government tries to promote a morally good action divorced from a larger moral framework, and it ends up looking a lot like the cartoon below:

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Photo courtesy of churchpop.com

And it never works. Ideals are never realized and people become cynical because politics constantly promises more than it can deliver, and in my opinion that’s why all political people ever do is talk in varying degrees of hope and condescension.

Talk of how others should fix something, how others should change, how others should stop being ignorant in their love of Trump… In short, talk of how the world would be a better place if it was full of people more like themselves.

And I can’t stand it because this pride blinds to the only thing that has ever changed the world for the better: love. Yet this change they truly seek is not going to be dramatic, global, sweeping, or entertaining. It’s not going to have a bumper sticker or a benefit or a stage of any kind because none of those things have the power to change people’s hearts, which is the only way to make the world a better place.

What changes people’s hearts is when they say no to the world. No to the temptation to say something awful about their neighbors, no to crappy television, no to the temptation to pride and superiority, and yes to those brave and wild moments when they go out on a limb and actually love their neighbor even though it might be the opposite of what they feel like doing.

And my belief in this simple observation comes from the fact that I am a lifelong Catholic and was in a secular service sorority and, unlike vague political mandates, I have seen this method work time and time again. It is arguably the prime reason I am religious but not at all political because politics tells me to trust the power of the state whereas religion tells me to trust the power of God, and only one of those things has ever had the power to change my heart and open it up past my selfish nature to see in blazing color the needs of others. This may not have changed the entire world but it certainly changed mine and maybe my tiny corner of Pittsburgh is better because of it.

So now if I look remarkably calm in spite of the political mess we seem inevitably headed towards you can know it is because I’m not disappointed or even that surprised because I don’t believe in saviors.

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Don’t Give Up

So the other day I got some bad news. It wasn’t new news, per se, but I’ve been having all kinds of minor health problems lately that have me being bounced around like a ping-pong ball between different specialists as they try to pinpoint which cause is responsible for which symptom.

It’s a frustrating process, not in the least because I sincerely worry that my boss will stop believing me the more I repeatedly ask to take off work to go to the next doctor who, of course, will also want a follow-up appointment.

I wouldn’t mind it so much if I didn’t have to ask permission to join something that I really want to join, something which I’m not sure will accept me as a candidate even though I feel truly called to do it. And that’s hard. Because obviously I won’t know their answer until after I apply, which won’t be in the immediate future. And in the gap that waiting always brings there is much room for doubt.

But it’s funny, even in the midst of some very reasonable objections I could see brought against me, I was surprised when my extremely practical family members looked me right in the eye and said “don’t give up.”

In the right context, those words can be quite powerful.

Because even though I was expecting my family to say “yeah it’s unlikely” or “yeah don’t set your heart on it, keep your options open” they instead believed in two people that I sometimes struggle to believe in, myself and God. They believed that in spite of resistance I might face that God is truly calling me to do it and that, if that is the case, neither hell nor high water will stand in my way. And I was touched because I know the reason they believe I can do it is because they have witnessed the strong interior conversion I described having, the one that inspired this blog in the first place, and the one that has carried me through many storms and placed me back on my feet on the other side to walk along brand new shores. And I’m sure I’m a better person for it.

And as I reach my one year anniversary of being a medical enigma, I also approach my one year anniversary of my littler way, a practice of living in the present moment with God. A process I will describe more in detail come the new year. A process that took the sting out of my bad news because, from the relationship that developed there, when push came to shove and I had to ask myself that tough question: “do I really trust God to take care of me, to get me through this and accomplish His Will for my life even in the face of potentially serious opposition?” My answer was a genuine “yes, I do.” Because God likes to accomplish the utterly impossible for me, it’s kind of our thing. I blame myself really because the truth is, as Miss Piggy pointed out in The Great Muppet Caper, “you wanted excitement!”

So I renew the promise I made when I began my consecration to the Blessed Mother, “No matter what happens, I won’t give up.”

Because in spite of everything I still have my new faith, and it really does make all the difference.