Chewing the Cud was created to be an outlet to process things that are happening in life and faith in such a way it might connect with others and, in the process, bring encouragement to us both. Having said that, I’m having trouble figuring out how to process my experience of the presidential campaign.
I’ve watched the debates and the debates digested. I’ve watched the news accounts of the latest mudslinging between camps. I’ve read so many posts, articles, rants, and tirades that I’m weary of the whole thing. And, I’ve expressed my opinions verbally to family and friends, and, no doubt, been wearisome in the process. This usually happens while drinking wine on my front porch when I am at my wisest. I would love to blame it on Trump (oh, would I love to blame it all on Trump!), Hillary, the broken governmental system, the crazy ratings and profit hungry media, our good for nothing back sliding culture, or even the devil.
I would love to find somewhere to project the blame for the way I feel. But, the question arises in my heart…what part am I playing in this dis-eased state in which I now find myself?
I went back and listened to President John Kennedy’s speech in which he exhorted the citizens of this country to …..not ask what this country could do for us, but rather ask what we can do for our country. He then expanded his exhortation to a global vision.
He told the world not to ask what America could do for the world, but ask what we all could do together to better the world for humankind. He called us to service. He called us to work for the greater good in connection with one another. Which is the same thing Christians are called to do. Which is the action of loving God and loving neighbor.
In that speech he also talked about the course he wanted to set in his presidency in which all kinds of good things would happen for humanity. Things that would oppose the tyranny of oppression, poverty, disease, and war itself. He stated clearly that this would not be something that would be accomplished quickly or, eerily, even in his own lifetime. His speech was full of all of the idealism of any political leader fresh to his or her position.
I’m guessing each new president approaches the office with enthusiasm, hope, determination, and usually darker hair than when their term is over.
What strikes me now about his speech is that it was a call to service and an invitation to be a partaker in something good and honorable, humanity joining together to bring about hope and life to all. His speech was nothing like what I’ve heard from either or our two major presidential candidates thus far. What the heck.
Could there be something to dig into here that would help me make sense, even if it’s just a little, of what is going on now? I’m trying desperately to find meaning in the current chaos of disgusting-ness.
According to the online dictionary a consumer is “someone who purchases goods and services for personal use”. And another, “a person or thing that eats or uses something.” According to the online free dictionary a partaker is “someone who has or gives or receives a part or a share. sharer. participant – someone who takes part in an activity.” (you can google it, I did)
There is something key here. We are called as citizens of our country, world, and as people of faith to be partakers. Participants. Giving and receiving. Sharing. There is an understood interdependence and connectedness in partaking. Giving and receiving require a certain level of openness. Vulnerability. Hospitality. Generosity. Compassion. Even selflessness. And the root of all partaking is gratitude. When I’m grateful I’m not clutching. When I’m grateful I’m aware my plenty is there to share.
When I think of partaking I am reminded of the holy reverence I feel when going forward every Sunday at the Episcopal church my family attends and receiving communion and making way for people beside me to share.
I don’t see the same thing in consumerism. Looks to me like consumerism is all about me. What I want. What I can pay for. I don’t see any connectedness in that. It’s transactional. It’s one directional. It’s about using, not sharing. It’s about buying not giving or receiving. Perhaps the root of consuming is a feeling of entitlement. I want what I want when I want it. I’ve worked hard and I deserve this.
When I think of consuming I think of Black Friday. Which in many stores now starts on Thursday. Thanksgiving Thursday. What a perfect example of consumerism invading partaking when I consider cutting Thanksgiving dinner short in order to go stand in line for the big sale, where I will get the most of what I want for the least amount from me. Maybe I’m being unfair. Maybe there really is some great family time standing in line!
I learned recently that up until the 1980’s there were intentional regulations in place by the FCC to ensure that the news would be reported as factually and fair and impartial as possible. There was even a fairness doctrine in place in the 1940’s for a short time that banned all editorializing in the news. Ha!! Can you imagine?
It’s not hard to see what happened once the news was deregulated. I find it nearly impossible to get anything other than editorials. What was put in place to protect from the temptation and practice to only give one viewpoint gave way to just that. The same events are reported but are done so from different, and even polarizing perspectives. So, if I am ultra conservative I can tune in to one station that will affirm and confirm my already set in stone viewpoint on any given subject or person. And, if I am a lefty liberal I simply tune in to a different station.
Consumerism at its fullest! Confirmation of my opinion. So, not only at Burger King can I have it my way but I can have my news the way I want it as well.
And I really can’t blame the media because they are simply selling what they know I am looking to buy.
Even as I write this I am convicted that perhaps the anxiety I am experiencing at this election is my unwillingness to look into the mirror at my own need for repentance. If I’m unhappy about the state of affairs why I am not doing something to change it?
I can’t do anything to stop the war in Syria. And, I can’t do anything to stop the madness in the presidential campaign. Although, maybe, just maybe I can pay more attention to the choices I make each and every day.
Even the seemingly insignificant choices determine whether I will consume or partake. I need to have the courage to discern if I am appreciating and savoring what I have received and if I am sharing and contributing to the greater good, to loving my neighbor. Or, am I simply eating and using? Am I participating?
I’m going to turn off the damn news, no longer buying the anxiety feed it is selling me, and give this a try. (This will no doubt be a process!) Who knows, maybe if enough of us do this it will make a difference.
Politics is meant to be about the way we live together. It’s time to take responsibility instead of expecting the professionals to sell us what we want. Wouldn’t it be something if the course that John Kennedy talked about. The course of stopping oppression, hunger, disease, and war itself. Could happen. Wouldn’t it be something if, together, we had the courage to consider….not what can be done for us…and, rather….what we can do for our neighbor.
Wouldn’t it be something if we quit worrying about what Donald or Hillary will do for us and started participating in what we can actually do right at this moment and right where we are. Together. Lord knows what might happen! May it be on earth as it is in heaven.
Something to chew on….