Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Nightmare of the Presidency

Regular readers of this blog know I often have revealing dreams, but I have never had the audacity to dream of myself in the Oval Office. Yet last night, in one of those waking moments that come around three in the morning for us older members of “the tribe” who were to rise, tend to the campfire, and keep watch for lions and tigers and bears in olden times, I began to consider what a nightmare it would be to find myself elected president.

The occasion was my careful announcement to my Facebook friends of the candidate I support for the presidency. Given Georgia’s and other primaries this week, the timing seemed relevant.  I say “careful,” because I chose a few words to support my candidate without overtly disparaging another’s choice. I was a little apprehensive about doing so, as we all know that the internet and Facebook can be a minefield, especially when sharing political views.

I received over 200 likes and over 50 comments, mostly supportive. A few expressed surprise, offering an alternative candidate. But the harshest comment came not from another political party, but from my own political framework. Someone asked how I could be a Christian and support this candidate, and said I must have been duped by the candidate’s “propaganda.”

Recent studies have suggested that political polarization is caused less by disagreement than by our failure to believe our opponents’ intentions are good, or at least justified or reasonable. This is the beam in my own eye that I stumble over when faced with my differences with the opposing political party. Now, I may be right in doubting their motivations. But it would seem that someone from my own party and bias might give me credit for making a reasoned choice that might not be theirs.

It makes me think of my biological family that never shied away from political arguments. Often political anger arose out of thinking that a family member I love would not be making such a stupid or heartless choice! In a perverse way, our political ire showed our deep respect for the person’s intelligence and moral compass.

Maybe the same thing is happening within the various “tribes” we belong to, whether a church, political party, circle of friends, or a nation as a whole. Maybe we think our better natures should make us all come out on the same page.

All of this is to say that at 3 a.m. I realized that to become president of the United States would be, for me, a nightmare. My tiny Facebook skirmish made me realize how vulnerable, how thin-skinned I can be. This may come as a surprise to those who know my lifetime of struggle for LGBT acceptance in the church, as well as other unpopular justice issues.  But that is a drop in the bucket compared to the struggle of a U.S. President.

If elected, whom could I trust? Could I even trust myself to make the right choices? I can’t imagine being adequately informed about any issue. If blocked, could I confront my challengers? Would I be willing to compromise, and would I compromise too much?

Having never served in the military, what would I do with the imposing and intimidating Joint Chiefs of Staff? And, being a member of a centuries-old marginalized tribe, the LGBT community, how would I or my opponents discern between disagreement and disrespect?

And how would I cope with the outrageous “slings and arrows” that come a president’s way—slights, hurts, attacks, as well as the omnipresent danger of a lunatic wanting to make a life while taking yours.

My inaction as well as my actions could spell catastrophe for huge segments of the world population, let alone the earth’s environment. In some ways, being president is kind of like being God—you can’t really have a day off. And if you’re having a bad day, multitudes may suffer.

Some of you might say, well, this is surprising coming from a minister who speaks for God.  That is the more audacious task, representing God.  But I have never viewed myself “speaking for God.” In my nocturnal reverie, a play I had seen at the tender age of 18 at L.A.’s Mark Taper Forum came to mind: the Christopher Isherwood adaptation of the George Bernard Shaw story, “The Adventures of the Black Girl in Her Search of God.” I have always felt like my writings detail “the adventures of a gay red-headed boy in his search of God.” More on this next week.

It is an awesome task to be “the leader of the free world” or the leader of any nation. That’s why your vote and my vote count so much. We don’t want the presidency to be scarier than it already is.

A reading for this week of Lent:

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  1. This!!----is true to me. "Recent studies have suggested that political polarization is caused less by disagreement than by our failure to believe our opponents’ intentions are good, or at least justified or reasonable." Thanks for verbalizing it that way. Very helpful to remember. For me.

  2. All the more reason to be grateful for the courageous, thoughtful and compassionate individual who occupies the office today.