To the public at large, you have two people with nothing in common. They disagree on everything. They are polar opposites who are the ultimate embodiment of the great impasse at which our country finds itself.
And yet…there’s that picture.
So what could it possibly mean. Well, to me it means that out of the 300+ million Americans, maybe 50 REALLY know George W. Bush. And the same is true of Michelle Obama. So for the vast majority of us, we don’t know if they in actuality have anything in common or not. Maybe they share a love of classical jazz music. Or maybe they both harbor a secret desire to paint like the masters of old. Heck, maybe they had a secret family date to watch the Chicago Bears play the Dallas Cowboys this last weekend complete with Romo and Cutler jerseys and an edible stadium vegetable platter. I mean really, who knows what shared interests these two unique individuals have outside of their political beliefs-beliefs I believe make up such a small part of who we as human beings actually are, or at least they should?
However, there is at least one thing we do know. We know they both possess a shared experience of understanding what it’s like to have every single word, expression and gesture seized upon by a soulless media who know nothing about the true measure of their heart and having those words, expressions and gestures parsed and analyzed into their worst possible outcomes. That alone would provide enough of a common ground to engender feelings of mutual admiration and respect even if those feelings don’t necessarily rise to the level of actual friendship.
And that is why I love this picture. Because I believe it represents who we really are as Americans so much better than…well, you know.
So, switching gears (I apologize up front, I’m gonna be a little all over the board today) I didn’t watch the debate last night. And the reason? I just don’t care. I cared much more about spending time with my family and then obsessing about my fantasy football team that ALMOST pulled out a win last night than I did about whatever zinger landed in a pointless barrage of meaningless words. But something I did watch this weekend helped me put in perspective my strong feelings about this election. And it’s probably going to seem like it is coming out of left field.
I watched several segments on Sports Center dedicated to Jose Fernandez, the Florida Marlins ace pitcher who lost his life at the tragic age of 24 over the weekend. One of those segments was an interview with Pedro Gomez, an ESPN baseball analyst who is Cuban American. When asked what Fernandez’s passing means to the Cuban community (Fernandez was Cuban as well) Gomez talked about how much that one man had meant to an entire community. He said, “When he (Fernandez) succeeded, it felt as if we were all succeeding just a little bit as well.”
It was a sentiment I could totally relate to and helped clarify for me what is so devastating about this election. I have touched on this before on this blog, but for me, the 2012 presidential election was very personal. One of our own, a Mormon, had garnered the Republican nomination. And as the weeks drew close for the general election, he was leading in the polls. After a 150 year history that had included persecution, slander, jokes and slights of varying levels, it was suddenly very possible that we as a culture were about to validated.
And then he lost.
It was crushing. I knew losing was possible, but this wasn’t like 2008 when everyone knew going into election night what the outcome was going to be. This was supposed to be anyone’s election. A race so close it might be Bush v. Gore all over again. Fox News had told us the enthusiasm at campaign events for Mr. Romney was so much higher when compared to those of President Obama’s. On that first Tuesday in November, I really thought he was going to win.
But in the end it wasn’t that close. It was closer than 2008, but with the popular vote coming in at 50% to 48% it still wasn’t that close.
Then in the coming days it started to trickle out that while the percentages of those Republicans who had voted was in line with previous elections, the raw numbers showed that upwards of 4 to 6 million Republican voters who had voted for Mr. Bush in 2004 had decided to sit out 2012. Mr. Romney had actually won the Independent vote, but had bled Republican voters. What stung even worse was that the data suggested a large percentage of those Republicans were Evangelical Christians from swing states.
To me, that news felt like a kick in the gut. I knew in my heart that Mitt Romney was a good man. Perfect? No. But definitely a good man. Despite the media’s best effort to paint him as a monster for those in the lower and middle classes, the best they could do to smear him was a couple of context quotes about the 47% and that he liked to fire people. There were no major character flaws. There were no skeletons. There just seemed to be one major flaw that was significant for that voting block. He was a Mormon.
Even now, I know my reaction was irrational. But it was still my reaction none the less. I harbored frustrated feelings of anger against Evangelical Christians, who despite their massive opposition to President Obama, couldn’t bring themselves to vote for a Mormon. It’s fine that we Mormons were supposed to get in line and support one of theirs in the form of GW (who I do respect and admire as a person and would vote for again in a heartbeat) but expect the same in return? Oh Hades No!!!
So let’s shoot forward to the 2016 GOP primary contest and who is one of the groups propelling Donald Trump to victory? Evangelical Christians.
Now in the logical part of my brain I know that there are many Evangelicals, a majority in fact, who are not Trump supporters, who are as disgusted by the man as I am, but yet I can’t help it. I feel betrayed. Despite having a complete lack of empirical data to prove it, I know in my heart that there are a good number of Evangelical Trump supporters who expect every Republican to get in line behind their guy, but who hedged in 2012. They want me to do what they were unwilling to do in 2012. And frankly, it makes me mad.
And so I’ve needed to repent.
Thus, I have returned to my rationale and asked myself if my inability to vote for Trump is based entirely in this faulty thinking. Part of it definitely was, but the truth is, whatever part that anger may have played, it doesn’t register any longer. It may have helped put me in this state of thought, but the reality is, once I felt betrayed, I started examining a lot of things more closely and my sense of betrayal only grew.
Everything about this process from the media to the political party system is designed to separate us. The entire system NEEDS us mad. Anger brings eyeballs to televisions and ears to radios. Anger gets voters out on a rainy or snowy day. For an elite few, anger equals dollars and when dollars becomes what matters most, people become desperate to keep those dollars rolling in.
Finally, I feel betrayed by those who would expect me to lower my standards to the level of Donald Trump. I don’t care about all the reasons Mrs. Clinton must be stopped. I don’t care about all the things people hope and believe Mr. Trump will do without any empirical evidence to suggest that he actually will. I don’t care about any of it.
And why don’t I care? In part because of the message conveyed in the picture at the top of this post. That picture is anti-anger and it is anti-fear.
So of course, there are already those who are suggesting the photo isn’t what it appears to be. That if you watch the video of the same event, the hug is very quick and the look on Michelle Obama’s face can possibly be construed as a grimace instead of a smile. That everything about that picture is false.
But I choose to believe differently. Maybe I’m naive, but what I see is a woman who was never required to embrace the man in front of her, but did it anyway. Because we as human beings can be better than our politics. And that’s just it. I know in my heart we can do better than our two choices for president. Much better! And to my way of thinking, we won’t get a candidate worthy of our support if we give in now and compromise our principles. In my mind, that would be the ultimate betrayal. So I’ll wait. And when a presidential candidate comes along that inspires and lifts instead of playing to lowest common denominator of fear, I’ll return to the top of the ballot and exercise my constitutional right to vote. Until then, I’ll keep believing in my fellow man and exercise my constitutional right not to.