Does history repeat itself?
I don’t care for political posturing. Unfortunately, we’re facing another presidential election where all the in-your-face bluster of the candidates filters down to us everyday people. You see it in our social media posts — snide comments intended to rile, and passive-aggressive flooding of “gentle” opposing views that provoke. I swear, sometimes it’s like a pep rally back in high school. Yells of “Slay the Gladiators!” and “Rip the Raptors!” versus sweet, lying tones of “Tigers Rule!” and “We’re the best!”
A few years back, I conducted a social survey among the members of a local Toastmasters chapter. We were facing a presidential election with an incumbent as one of the candidates. I asked this group of 35 potential voters a series of questions about how they felt on the hot button issues of the time. These twenty-five questions had a numerical value that matched the views and voting records of each candidate. I very carefully laid out the logic behind the methodology in simple terms. There was no confusion. Everyone agreed it was fair.
After we completed the survey, I conducted a straw poll to see who my fellow citizens planned to vote for. Imagine the surprise when results showed a 95% leaning toward one candidate, while the straw poll gave a slight vote advantage toward the candidate few had agreed with!
I allowed a few minutes of grumbling and watched as people began to shift uneasily in their chairs. When presented with the results of their individual questionnaires that showed the candidate their values were best aligned with, those 45% out-of-sync voters WERE NOT SWAYED.
“No way, I’m not voting for him!”
“I don’t care what the survey says, I’m voting for—”
“This doesn’t change anything.”
“You’re trying to trick me.”
“It doesn’t matter. I like this guy better.”
“I’ve already made up my mind.”
No trick questions. No magic. Hard, blunt, yes-or-no questions. My one intent with this exercise was to encourage people to register to vote and then get out and cast their ballot. In that regard, I succeeded. But the “You can’t make me change my mind” attitude has troubled me ever since. It smacks of fanaticism based on other than values.
I fear a great divide has split the people of this nation, a chasm that grows wider every year. Which tells me the winds of change are on the rise. Again.
This isn’t a jab at any one political party. The current attitude is rampant on both sides of the political fence. What one sees as morally (or constitutionally or ethically) right, the other sees as wrong, and vice versa. Both sides continue to put forth strong, valid arguments citing why their stance is the correct one – but neither side is willing to budge. (Can we say, The View?)
Back in the 1920s and 1930s, our nation experienced an epic stock market crash followed soon after by what has been termed The Great Depression. In the early 1930s, ONE-QUARTER of all wage earners were unemployed. Poverty was huge. The Plains states suffered the worst drought in history which led to 2.5 million people abandoning farms in the Dust Bowl. These were the years of prohibition and the devastating auto workers strikes. The resulting political war inflamed the citizens, all looking to blame someone for their ills.
We were a divided, angry, defeated country … and then Pearl Harbor happened—”a day that will live in infamy.” But it pointed the country back to God. Gave us a common purpose. And solidarity. We united around a single cause, one more important to our future than any since the birth of the nation—survival.
Consider these words from George Santayana, esteemed essayist, philosopher, author, and poet:
Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.
Fanaticism consists in redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim.
When men and women agree, it is only in their conclusions; their reasons are always different.
Matters of religion should never be matters of controversy. We neither argue with a lover about his taste nor condemn him, if we are just, for knowing so human a passion.
The line between what is known scientifically and what has to be assumed in order to support knowledge is impossible to draw. Memory itself is an internal rumor.
The picture we frame of the past changes continually and grows every day less similar to the original experience which it purports to describe.
My point? The best intentions in the world, the highest empirical evidence, and most persuasive arguments can’t make someone believe if they don’t want to. Heck, most of the time they don’t even listen to us! Of course, we don’t listen to them either.
Funny how all the issues, all the stories, all the problems point back to salvation. As Christians, all our eloquence won’t save a single soul. Only the Holy Spirit can change a person’s heart. What we can do, though, is tell them and tell them. Some turn violent. Some laugh. Some consider, but walk away. But if there is one in a thousand who will heed, we dare not stop.
I pray we as a nation find our way to unity against an increasingly dangerous threat to our beliefs and our way of life. I pray it won’t take another, more devastating 911 event to bring us together again. I pray idealists and cynics alike learn to listen. I pray the violent tantrums of the minorities and the passive-aggressiveness of the majorities come to terms with each other. I pray for respect, ethics, and personal responsibility to rise like a phoenix from the ashes of this torn and broken country. I pray for the future of my children and grandchildren.