I love a good political debate.
I was a competitive debater in college, and there I learned a love I will not easily forget. I learned to love good arguments. Not just arguments that end in a way I agree with, arguments that are logical and beautiful. Well-researched arguments with coherent pathways, articulated in powerful ways.
I learned that I could appreciate an argument even if I didn’t agree with its conclusion.
Interestingly enough, being a debater made me less opinionated, not more.
There are a few reasons for this:
- I learned that most issues have multiple perspectives that hold at least merit, even if I disagree with them.
- I became friends with kind, intelligent, and thoughtful people on both sides of almost every issue.
- I discovered how little I know about almost everything.
Try researching one specific topic for an entire year, learning every nook and cranny of complicated policy issues, advocating for both sides in a million different ways, having the very presuppositions of each argument challenged – and then go back to sharing one-page articles on Facebook and composing tweet-length opinions.
Learning to love a good argument ended up humbling me more than anything else.
That’s why in this (particularly gruesome and disheartening) election, I’m not as interested in who you’re voting for as I am in how you got there.
Am I interested in who you’re voting for? Absolutely, and I probably will try to convince you to vote the way I’m voting if you give me the chance. I love talking politics and I’m not afraid to let things get a little heated – I’m passionate, and I expect nothing less from everyone else. (In fact, that’s the one thing I have a hard time handling: apathy.)
In spite of the desire I have to write a fiery blog post about why you should vote the way I’m voting (and trust me, that desire is there), I don’t think it will do much good.
I’m honestly pretty pessimistic about my ability to sway anyone’s ballot at this point, so let me just make this one desperate plea instead: know your why.
Know why you’re voting, and for the love of God and His children, make it good.
Do you have a defense of your ballot (or lack thereof)? How did you come to your decision? I’m not asking if you have a half-hearted justification or a Facebook-post-length rant. I’m asking if you have a defense that has taken some time to think about. I’m asking if you could stand in front of a crowd of people voting a different way and feel confident telling them why.
Were you satisfied with getting your information from one slice of the media? Did you listen/read/watch the other side? Did you let your Facebook friends’ political leanings determine the articles you read or opinions you were exposed to? At risk of sounding like a total nerd, did you check out any primary sources? Basically, did you do your own research?
(Hint: If you frequently discount an article before actually reading it because of the political leanings of its source, you might need to work on this one. Example: “Well that liberal quack would say that!”)
Do you have friends voting both ways? Have you talked to them? (Actually talked to them, not talked at them.) Have you considered the way their unique experiences and background have influenced their decision? Have you sought out the opinions of people who aren’t like you?
(This might be the most important question.) Did you take the easy way out? This could mean a lot of things for a lot of people. Voting Republican, Democrat, third party, or not at all. Each of these decisions could be reached by thoughtful engagement with complex problems, or they could each be reached by giving up on critical thinking entirely. (Although I won’t lie, one of those options particularly confuses me.) The “easy way” could be voting for the party you’ve always voted for because it’s the party you’ve always voted for. It could be voting Democrat because you don’t like Trump’s hair or his name or his family. It could be choosing to not vote because wading through complex issues and making a difficult decision isn’t appealing or fun.
This election doesn’t scare me because of the candidates. (Though they both leave plenty to be scared of.) I’ve always known that politicians and people like them exist. It’s not their existence that scares me, it’s the fact that people have voted for them, usually for terrible reasons.
Supporting an imperfect candidate is one thing, but watching people twist themselves into knots trying to convince themselves of a candidate’s moral uprightness or political experience is getting sickening. (Full disclosure: I’m mostly talking about Trump, but honestly, it could go either way.)
That brings me right back to my point: I’ll have a throw-down with you about this election. I love talking about politics and I am not afraid to let anyone know what I think.
But more than anything else, I’m interested in your why, your because.
I’m interested in how much time you spent considering the options, I’m interested in who you consulted and what you read, I’m interested in your thought process.
Who wins the election is a really important question, but it’s just not as important as the state of the electorate that got them there.
This election scares me because I’ve watched people I usually consider to be intelligent and kind justify their ballot with reasons that are neither.
I have more faith in a country full of people who used good reasons to vote for someone I disagree with than I do in a country full of people who voted the way I did but had poor justifications for it. We can survive a bad president, but I don’t know how long we can survive with a country full of poor thinkers.
I’ve read a lot of blog posts and articles about how we need to be kind to each other in this election season. There’s too much hate, it’s all too loud and angry and scary.
And I’m with you – it’s all just too much right now. I’m a huge advocate of throwing kind words and hugs around like confetti.
But as we navigate through the muck of this broken world together, my hope and prayer is that we wouldn’t be content to just “play nice” and get along. This mess we’re sitting in is too broken and scary, and there are people that don’t have the luxury of just talking about it – it’s suffocating them.
There’s too much at stake for us to keep scrapping together makeshift solutions without asking hard questions and wading through their messy answers.
Don’t settle for half-hearted justifications, shrug-of-the-shoulder type of reasoning. Don’t decide it’s all just too complicated and give up. Don’t settle for singing Kumbaya through clenched teeth, hiding our differences and disagreements under forced smiles.
Instead, we need to keep asking hard questions, even if they spark some arguments. We need to commit to argue with each other more thoughtfully and honestly. Basically, we need to argue better.
I know that this sounds a little counter-intuitive. We’re supposed to argue? Well, no. We weren’t made for this broken world and the hard questions it forces us to ask. But now we’re stuck here for a while and things keep getting more broken and I can’t help but think that the solution isn’t pretending we’re all getting along.
This election more than ever has had people asking, “How should Christians vote?”
They should vote well. They should vote with sound logic and good arguments and with their hearts and brains and souls involved in the complicated process of making hard choices.