WHEN THE DAY IS BIGGER THAN THE PEOPLE
I don’t buy a lot of our President-Elect’s rhetoric, and wish he didn’t engage in some of the behavior that is part of his M.O., but several articles recently have addressed some activities of a few members of Congress that are small, petty, and unbecoming of the offices these people hold…what a tragedy it is that we are at the point where what should be the biggest celebration of what makes our country great (and our country is great) – the peaceful transfer of power, even to those with whom we have profound and deep disagreement and disregard – is being used in such a way…if these people don’t want to exercise the honor of representing ALL of their constituents at this historic event (for there are some they represent – no matter the district – that voted in favor of the president-elect) then I would think they should seriously consider resigning their office.
One of the things that I look forward to instilling in my 15-month-old daughter – starting Friday – is the necessity of paying attention to presidential inaugurations and state of the union addresses regardless of my opinion of the office-holder (or office-holder-elect), for the person taking and holding the office is my president and while I may not celebrate their politics, once the election is over it’s time to circle the wagons and wish each other the very best…I’ve been disappointed in congressmen and congresswomen, as well as presidents, who have used these special occasions as ways to act small and petty (holding signs during the SOTU addresses, screaming at the POTUS during the SOTU, or using the SOTU to attack another branch of the government, just to name three recent examples) and would have a hard time supporting anyone of either political party who pulls these kinds of stunts…
Being a solutions-oriented guy, I’d rather they carry out the common decency of being the bigger people (like Mr. Trump’s main opponent, Secretary Clinton) and attend the inauguration not as support of this president, but in support of the occasion. Then go and protest somewhere, if you feel led, for that, too, is part of the political process.
Those of you who know me well know I have strong political opinions, but responses such as the ones described in this article are one of the reasons why I stay apolitical on social media and in the pulpit – the pastoral office to which I have been entrusted is far bigger than any particular political perspective I may personally hold – and I would not want anyone in my congregation to feel alienated or attacked because their opinions are not shared by me.
Does this mean I shouldn’t stand up and talk about the issues of the day? Absolutely not. But there is a way to engage in the topics and issues of the day without being small and personal. After all, I serve in a denomination that has as one of it’s aims to be people of Open Hearts, Open Doors, and Open Minds. I would hate for anyone in the political realm (including voters), even those politicians I may find distasteful, to feel as though our doors would not be open to them for worship and community because I allowed my politics or my opinions of a particular politician to become part and parcel of my pastoral activities.
The true test of character comes not in supporting only those with whom we agree – the true test of character is in how you deal with things when those with whom you disagree succeed.
I remember one of the PoliSci classes in college where the professor asked the class would they go if he had the chance for our class to have an exclusive audience in the Oval Office with POTUS for 30 minutes. There was a lot of back-and-forth, and the conversation moved to how you would handle this situation if you were not a supporter of the incumbent – would you go anyway? I’m thankful that I was raised by two people who instilled in me my instinctive reaction when the professor asked me what I would do. My response, “By all means I would jump at the chance, for it would be an honor to visit the office and shake the President’s hand, for they are my president even if I didn’t vote for them. Going would also show respect for my fellow Americans who did vote for the president, for I would hope they’d show the same respect to the office if the shoe was on the other foot.”
***My apologies for the length of this message – but enough is enough. I’ve been thinking of this since the 2010 State of the Union address, and after reading this week’s coverage I felt it was time to speak. Friday I will hold my daughter and watch this historic transfer of power, and start even at the young age showing her by my interest the importance of this event. I will especially point out to her President Clinton and Secretary Clinton, who while experiencing a bitter defeat this election, are there (even though I am sure it is hard for them and deep down they may not want to be there) because sometimes the occasion is bigger than the person.***