Originally published at Naru Hodo.
There is a certain aspect to my particular humanity that I have come to understand, and, after significant on-going internal debate, have an affection for. And that is that I come at the issues of life in an other-than-mainstream sort of way. One might say I tend to see what other people do and then do something quite the opposite. A bit of a contrarian, I am. I can accept that about myself, but I have to explain, even to myself, that I don't style myself as this, I don't try to be different; it emerges from me. It is part of me.
The image that comes to mind is being at a big party, a big family gathering. Upstairs is crowded with voices and faces and animated discussion, exchange, eating, greeting. After a short time, the crowd and the din threaten to suck off my face and render me numb, so for simple self-preservation I retreat to the basement, where I find some children playing, and there I engage in meaningful conversation with the eccentric uncle who for his own reasons also ends up there.
This is how I think about my political education these last many months. Upstairs, there's a lot of talk about McCain and Obama. I cannot help but hear all about it. But I have followed a way that has helped me glimpse Christ amidst all the political stuff. I've been learning "in the basement" in the company of Ron Paul.
I learned of him about a year ago, when he was a Presidential candidate. His position on health care attracted me first. Then I realized he was pro-life and anti-war. The whole idea that he called his campaign a revolution, with LOVE in it struck me as very catchy. More recently I've watched his economic views gain great respect, because the things he warned would happened actually did.
I am not generally interested in individual politicians. But here are some reasons why I can listen to Ron Paul and learn from what he has to say. First, I see humility in him. My brother has worked for state government, and I worked indirectly with lobbyists at the state level, and these experiences (plus the eyes in my head) tell me that humility in a politician is exceptional. I see that he desires that voters educate themselves, and thus I have really heard the call to take up that task. (Even though he is no longer a contender for the Presidency, he is leading a movement to essentially change the Republican party from the grassroots up, based on education and action.) One thing I admire about his call to education is the emphasis on the need for historical context to understand what is before us today. Although I can appreciate the need for knowing what is happening how, there is a certain addictive aspect to chasing the "absolute latest" and forming our opinions accordingly. We need more than news ticker headlines and soundbytes and instant-response polling to understand the meaning of the events of our time.
There is this other thing that appeals to me viscerally about his message, and I'm not sure if I'll put it into words adequately. His supporters have formed what is called the Campaign for Liberty. I'll step out and say I feel this move for Americans to understand and embrace liberty -- freedom -- is nearly a prophetic one. I am not about being a Libertarian, although I do lean more toward that direction than Socialism. But there is a specter that I do find worth fighting against, and it is not perhaps even so much a political reality right now as it is a societal reality, and that is the specter of totalitarianism. Here, I think of this definition: the character or quality of an autocratic or authoritarian individual, group, or government.
My journey of parenting, my journey of the education of my children, my own personal spiritual journey has been greatly marked, indelibly marked by a move away from the damage of an authoritarian model. So perhaps I am very sensitive to see acceptance, welcoming, of control in the movements of society in ways that crush the human spirit and essentially block its potential for movement toward God and the good. I taught in Japan and I saw how the human spirit was somehow almost systematically crushed out of children so that their lives could be brought into societal conformity. Japanese adults, who I think felt could only vent their pain to a foreigner, often told me of the desperation this brought to their own lives.
I believe there is a corollary in our political system. I see a "big picture" that involves much of the world scrambling for someone to take control for us to make things all better. That desire, I believe, can become dangerous for our nation and for our world. We cannot resign ourselves to operate as cogs in a machine. While we need not have as our model the rugged American individualist, we do need to have strength as individuals. Otherwise, banding together becomes not "for the common good," but to the benefit, or I should say the advantage, of those who are given power by those who have learned to believe that they cannot operate in power for their own selves.
For myself, my "naru hodo" moment in writing this is to realize that it really does make me just a tad weary to find myself always attracted off the beaten path. Part of me would like to just stay upstairs and join in what is "really" going on.
But I can't, and remain loyal to who I am. This is what is "really" going on for me.