Political magnets, Political Idols
NOTE: I’ve taken to journaling my thoughts privately (via JRNL.com, which I highly recommend) because, as much as I like to hear the sound of my own voice, I am increasingly aware that I shouldn’t inflict my endlessly running social commentary on everyone else. With that in mind, I will immediately break that rule and post a section from today’s journal.
The reality that I increasingly observe is that the American two-party system is like a pair of powerful magnets ranged against each other, resisting each other’s polarities. We humans are like ball bearings attracted irreversibly to one of the two magnets, mostly based on our ideological proximity.
Most of us (partisans) are drawn inexorably and willingly into tight clusters around our chosen magnet, escaping the influence of the other entirely, and mocking its opposite power and force.
A few of us (moderates) attempt to find that middle ground between the influence of both magnets, seeing and feeling the attraction of both while never getting fully sucked in by either. But this is such a fine, nearly infinitesimal line that it requires constant, conscious work to maintain balance.
And only recently have I learned that an exceptionally rare few of us (independents– and by that I don’t just mean closet-liberals/conservatives, I mean people literally independent of any preset ideology) move out from between the polarities, get far enough away that we can still see them objectively while escaping their magnetic pull, and understand what I believe is the baseline reality: that both ideologies have some truth in them (although, at any given point in history, one is indeed more correct than the other in actual practice), both harbor a lot of crooks, lies, and distortions, and both cultivate extremism, division, and counter-productive self righteousness (especially in the age of social media, where both the speed of cultural trends and the feedback whine of confirmation bias is turned up to eleven).
And yet, this revelation– which is in equal parts both darkly comforting and deeply dismaying– is of no use to those clustered around their ideological magnet of choice. It isn’t that they can’t hear the potential truth of the outside observer. It’s that they can’t allow themselves to consider it. They have embraced the comfort of believing in– and nearly worshipping as a god– their chosen ideology. It provides them their noble fight, their arch-villain, their purposeful struggle, and most importantly of all, their affirming tribe.
It’s lonely outside the influence of those powerful political magnets. But as humans seeking truth and personal betterment, I, personally, don’t believe we need any counterfeit mission of imagined good-and-evil. There is a real battle of good and evil in my own heart and mind, a battle every day over how I spend my minutes, what I say to my wife, kids, co-workers, and friends, how I both seek out and erode (with the help of God and my diverse community) the forces of prejudice and judgment and condemnation in my own attitude and actions. This is my full time job– and I believe every human’s lifelong responsibility.
And I firmly believe that if we all attended to that personally, the world would conveniently take care of itself.
And this leads me to wonder: is the counterfeit battle of politics in actuality the greatest idol ever constructed by us humans? By worshipping it, are we not only manipulated to hate and oppose each other, but neatly distracted from the real battle that must occur inside our own hearts, souls, and minds?