Oct 25 2012

When Politics Divide Us

Published by at 7:00 am under General

Fluffy got a call this week from a person we home teach. She was so distraught that she was calling him long distance from a business trip. The reason she called was that two of her friends in our ward decided to get a bunch of Romney campaign signs and go to ward members’ houses and volunteer to put the signs in their front yards.

They went to the campaign headquarters and got the signs. Apparently, it was afterwards that the plan fell apart.

As Kelly and Carole went from house to house, they were turned down time and time again by ward members who said they didn’t want the signs in their yard because they were voting for the other candidate, or because they hadn’t yet decided. They were dumbfounded. They couldn’t understand why good members of the Church would not vote for another Church member to be President of the United States.

This is not the first such thing we’ve experienced during this election. Our monthly family home evening group in October featured a discussion on the topic of abortion, and that quickly morphed into a discussion about the upcoming election.  One fervent lady told the rest of the group that the only way people would vote for a certain candidate would be if they were influenced by Satan. She later apologized to two people in the room who were more than likely voting for that candidate, but the incident only showed us how passionate people can get over political beliefs.

I have to admit, I am a lot more passionate about this year’s election than I have been in many years. In my mind, there is only one logical choice. In my lifetime, I have never seen a presidential election that I believe is more important — not because one candidate is a member of the same church I am, but because one candidate has the values I believe are essential for a president of the United States to have. In fact, as I read The Book of Mormon, it seems to pretty strongly imply that once our country abandons those principles, our nation is going to be in serious trouble.

And yet…

I have good friends who are at least as smart as I am who are voting for the other candidate. Am I more righteous than they are? I think not! We have just been shaped by different things, and in different ways.

Some of my friends who are canceling out my presidential vote are doing so because their parents convinced them at a young age that the other political party was the Only True Political Party.  Their opinions were hardwired into them from childhood, and that’s fine.  I’m not going to criticize them for that.  Parents are expected to pass their values along to their children, and that happens with political beliefs as well as religious ones.  But serious discussion is out of the question with these friends because neither of us would convince the other, and it isn’t worth potentially damaging a friendship (or several) to try to persuade people whose beliefs are so intricately woven into their character.  When we mention politics (and we do so fairly often), we only do so in jest.

I have other friends, however, who work high up in the government, and whose opinions were shaped (I think) by what they have actually experienced. I would love to sit down with my CIA friend and ask him why he is voting the way he is, for example — not to confront him, but to learn.

I’m old enough to remember when the major political parties really did try to work together, and strike some kind of compromise that would be good for the entire nation.  Outlandish claims have always been part of the campaign process, but it used to be that after the election, all of the candidates would dust themselves off, shake hands, and then try to get on with the business of running the country.  Now it seems that a take-no-prisoners philosophy prevails, and that some people in power would rather see the country go down in flames than to give up just an inch to “the enemy.”  I’m hoping that we can change this attitude in the future, for the sake of the nation and also to preserve personal friendships.

The problem with being dogmatic is that it’s so embarrassing when you turn out to be wrong. I’ve been wrong often enough in my life that the smartest thing I can do is to at least acknowledge that the other side may have valid reasons for disagreeing with me. If I can learn what those reasons are, I may not change my mind, but I may sleep better at night.

Sleeping better at night is always a good thing.


9 responses so far

9 Responses to “When Politics Divide Us”

  1. michelle karrenon 25 Oct 2012 at 11:21 am

    I have been thinking about this very issue. Thanks for bringing it to light! I agree with what you said.

  2. Marinaon 25 Oct 2012 at 11:50 am

    I would have loved a yard sign! Unfortunately, in my state headquarters ran out of signs long ago. I hope that’s a good sign! (Yes, pun intended. Sigh.)

  3. Saraon 26 Oct 2012 at 12:18 am

    The good thing about arguing about politics is that you can seldom be wrong cause its all about preference and there is no right or wrong – just agency. From the outside you guys have got to calm down about politics. Who your president is doesn’t make that much of a difference if the house is agin him.

  4. Kathyon 26 Oct 2012 at 5:48 am

    You’re right, Sara. What we need is a leader who can unite the different factions rather than polarize them. We’re headed toward civil war if we don’t get a leader like that.

  5. Maryannon 29 Oct 2012 at 12:53 am

    I have been very careful about not making statements at church or at work that might offend people’s political choices. However, I am amazed that any member of the church could even consider voting for Obama, for far too many reasons than you have space for here. The scriptures counsel us to make a righteous judgment and this is certainly the time.

  6. Australian Observeron 29 Oct 2012 at 8:06 am

    @Maryann- its funny, when I was reading the Book of Mormon recently I was thinking something similar, only about the Republican party. It’s probably because neither party gets everything right. It just goes to show that people with the same belief in Christ and his teachings can come to vastly different conclusions when it comes to secular politics, even though they are consulting their spiritual beliefs as part of that process.

  7. Kathyon 29 Oct 2012 at 8:30 am

    You’re so right, Australian. Just last night, Fluffy and I went to an open house for a missionary who just came home, and I was seated next to the missionary’s grandmother. At one point all her old family home evening friends came in and had a reunion, and it became apparent that every last one of them was a staunch Democrat. I didn’t say a word; I just eavesdropped to my heart’s content and hoped they were all going to be disappointed on election day.

  8. Kathyon 29 Oct 2012 at 9:09 am

    P.S. Maryann, I totally agree with you. It escapes me why so many church members don’t, but we’re all shaped by different things. The bummer about free agency is that people are free to have beliefs that I know in my heart of hearts are wrong. Meanwhile, they’re thinking the same thing about me.

  9. Sharee Hugheson 29 Oct 2012 at 9:28 am

    An elderly woman in our Friday morning Book of Mormon class at the stake center said she couldn’t understand why every Mormon would not want a High Priest in the White House. I’m not sure I totally agree, as I think it depends on who that High Priest is. However, I took the little quiz that someone provided a link to in your Meridian column. As I answered each question, I did not think what Romney would say or what Obama would say, just what I thought myself. So guess what–I’m voting for Romney! I have good friends I know are voting for Obama. But here in Utah, their votes won’t mean much, anyway.

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