Monday, October 22, 2012

Yearning for Hope: Disconnected from Debates

Tonight is the night of the last presidential debate, but I will not be watching.  I have a guilty confession, although you may find it strange that I feel guilt when disclosing: I am deeply disconnected from this year's election.

Once I couldn't get enough. I not only watched the debates, but I taped them and made my students watch them.  I loved the debates and all the post-debate analysis, those written by my students and those written by the professionals.  In past election years, not only did I watch the debates, but I engaged in countless hours of debate myself.

Part of it is that I fall asleep early these days, especially if the T.V. that we're watching is boring. But part of it is a different kind of weariness. I'm just not interested in politics as blood sport anymore.

Once I felt that candidates wanted to win, not simply for the sake of winning, but because they had dreams of how to make the country better. I may not have agreed with those dreams, but at least I could have told you what they were.

Yes, I will still vote. No worries there. I know how many women struggled for so many years (centuries!) to secure this right for me. I understand how the choices affect me. At the very least, the president will make some Supreme Court decisions. At the most, the president will lead us in a certain direction and make sure to get things done.

I feel like a bad citizen. I feel like a pale version of myself.  I also feel like the candidates are pale versions of not only themselves, but the leaders our nation needs.

Maybe my detachment a healthy development. It's good to remember that it's bad to bet on one human to save us. It's early for Advent, but I remember the words of John the Baptist: "I am not the Messiah." I find it comforting to say those words when my to-do list overwhelms me.

Perhaps those words will be comforting now. These men are not the messiah, no matter how much we'd like them to be our saviors.

Just as it's unhealthy for women to expect that a handsome prince will come along to transform them and sweep them off to the palace, it's unhealthy for us to expect that politicians can save us. We each have a significant amount of work to do in our own communities, just as those running for national office will have a significant amount to do on the national level.

So maybe my disconnected attitude is not as disastrous as I worry it might be. I'm not disconnected from the woes of the nation, after all.

And I'm willing to be happily surprised, to be astonished out of my apathy about national politics. I'm ready to be jolted by hope.

But it's time to stop looking in the wrong places.  I don't need to wait for a political season to be jolted into hope.  Every Sunday as I participate in the Eucharistic wonder, I can remember the central message of Christianity:  this fallen world is redeemable, and that salvation is underway!

If politicians could channel just a smidge of that kind of hope, perhaps I wouldn't be disconnected in the way I am this year.

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