By: Sandra L. Churchill
Amidst perhaps the most toxic presidential election cycle in history (or at least the last century), we have seen political angst and divisive outbursts tearing at our daily peace, as families, as citizens, as colleagues, as friends and as neighbors.
As a family, we’ve found this presidential campaign cycle—particularly over the past year—to be a time not for apathy, but quite the contrary for active interest, participation, and conversation. With a sea of candidates just eight months ago, it is disheartening to see us reduced, for all intents and purposes, to two likely candidates—super-flawed in personality, behavior, and overall amiability.
We took our youngest, 11-year-old Tim, to meet a number of candidates making town hall-style appearances on the campaign trail, most just an hour and a half drive. This was a chance for him to see candidates up close, ask a question, and see the in-person handling of crowd interrogation both on- and off-camera. For many of the candidates we were lucky enough to meet, the picture in person was quite different from the super-slanted press coverage which often ignored capable folks who lacked the glamour of instant name recognition or scandalous backgrounds. Several smart people who might have made terrific presidents lingered for several months on the campaign trail, and we were blessed to see real leadership and qualified candidates early on.
While it can be disconcerting to endlessly endure bleak political coverage and scandals-by-the-day blared over the TV and radio airwaves, it helps to remember the local races. My son Timothy has a local cable access TV show, in which he was given the chance to interview such local State Senate candidates as Walter Timilty, Nora Harrington, and Jonathan Lott, along with U.S. Representative candidate Bill Burke. Looking to local races has helped restore our hope in the process and lifted our spirits on the chances that we can help elect leaders that we believe have a say in issues that matter to us personally.
Don’t Take It Personally
Unfortunately, Facebook posts on either side of the political aisle can sometimes be too harsh or too disrespectful and spark a hostile debate. Personally, we love discussions at our house but with the understanding that friends, family members, and neighbors hold different opinions for varying reasons. My sixth grader son loves to list “pros” and “cons” for each ballot question, in a quest to keep his debate skills sharp; but an added benefit is the building of a life-long skill: empathy. Since he interviews people all the time as a pint-sized political junkie, it helps to understand opposing points of view. Actually, if each of us understands another’s reasons for political beliefs, it is harder to be critical or disrespectful. Rather, we can disagree peaceably without others’ feelings getting hurt.
Remember Your Faith
Our family is comforted by the “big picture” of a grander wisdom at work beyond our culture. In short, no matter who is elected or what’s going on in the news, God is in charge. This faith in our Heavenly Father helps us relax a little when things have gone crazy in our culture, and we feel a little less lost when there are bigger plans in the works.
Embrace Teachable Moments
We took the opportunity to watch virtually every debate—Republican and Democrat—and the behavior of many candidates spanned from condescending to outright rude. The same was true for many of the journalist “moderators” who seemed to glory in drudging up scandalous bits, while often ignoring major issues affecting the daily lives of American families. While I would love to say this year’s presidential race has brimmed with leadership, grace, and altruistic examples, I can say there have been many “teachable moments” which have spurred family discussion, and, hopefully, elevated our children’s choices as they consider what it means to be a caring and responsible American citizen.