Politics and the English Major
Where can I rest my head?
Today we watched Barack Obama deliver his second inaugural address. On the day that we honor Martin Luther King Jr. we watched our first black president begin his second term as commander-in-chief. Many are elated and it truly is an important moment in American history. If you’re an American you should feel some sense of pride in your president on a day like this. This is the next step in the hard struggle for freedom for all Americans. And certainly, I appreciate the historical significance of it all. So why do I feel the way I do? Why am I not thrilled?
Let me bring you up to speed. For a significant portion of 2012 I was heavily invested in the presidential election. I followed every story as it broke and I looked into the candidates that interested me. Through research and discussion I chiseled away at my political positions until they hardened into bronze beliefs. Fox News and talk radio washed over my being as I prepared for the great battle of our age between big government tax and spend liberals and small government fiscally responsible conservatives. Obama was an enemy to “freedom” and somehow hated the very core of what America was, and no matter who replaced him that person would be an improvement. When it came to Romney, I found a way to like and support him as the better alternative. After the first debate I really got excited about the prospect of a conservative victory and increased my political presence on Facebook. Post after post I passionately made a plea for conservative principles. Right before the election I started to get feedback from friends that I had become too zealous and my words were losing their power. Even those who agreed with my politics were becoming annoyed. Admittedly, I was swept up in it. And then, after months of passionate reasoning and arguing, came the election. Oh, the election. I can sum it up in nicely in five words: Everyone…I…Voted…For…Lost.
After months of investing myself in politics I felt the awesome pain of total defeat. Seriously, even the little people I voted for lost. And to top it all off, I came down with a bad cold amidst the slaughter. Right before falling asleep, I spoke on the phone with my friend Steve who bet me a dozen Cadbury eggs that Obama would win. Though he assured me that everything would be ok, I went to bed physically ill, emotionally exhausted, mentally strained, and spiritually shaken. It was the sleep of a lost soul floating aimlessly in a hostile political sea.
So these past months have been a time of humble self-reflection. But they have also been a time of unease. You see, I’m truly struggling with my political identity. I’m in the midst of an identity crisis, you could say. If you’ve followed my blog for a while you’ve probably gathered that I have long wrestled with my conservative principles in an increasingly liberal culture. For instance, today my president said, “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal, as well.” Alright, so all that talk about gay marriage must be over. Now I’m the bad guy if I don’t compromise my beliefs about marriage and morality. And at the same time I recognize that gays have been treated with a special disdain within my Christian conservative community, and it’s hard not to view my side as the aggressors who are in the wrong. Why is homosexuality uniquely wretched while divorce is basically accepted? Where does evolving culture end and timeless truth begin?
So I’ve described to you my current political state. My party has become a national joke and lost its ability to speak with authority to the greater culture. There’s no Republican version of Obama. My core political beliefs don’t have a champion in the arena and so I’m left to wander for a while in the wilderness. Meanwhile, I’m wrestling with what it means to be a Christian in America today. It’s all quite humbling, and I believe in my heart that I will come out of it a better man. I just wish, in the meantime, I had somewhere to rest my head.