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Parades, Picnics, and Politics

Orion, my parents, and their friends waiting in line at the picnic

Orion, my parents, and their friends waiting in line at the picnic

Labor Day is a celebration given to us by the labor unions.  Regardless of your feelings about unions (it’s complicated), they did give us a 40 hour work week, child labor laws, minimum wage, workplace safety regulations, and a national holiday.  We celebrated with my parents and that means parades and picnics.  You can’t have a parade without political representation.  The local union puts on the picnic.

Talking to people it strikes me to question how spirituality impacts our political outlook. Given the hoopla about Kim Davis this seems a particularly topical point to ponder.

It’s clear to me that our beliefs are foundational to how we view political questions.  They impact how we prioritize issues.  They impact our personal behaviors.   It’s also clear to me that our beliefs shouldn’t ever simply be our politics.

The union sets up a buffet in the park and feeds whoever shows up. They sell tickets for a raffle.

The union sets up a buffet in the park and feeds whoever shows up. They sell tickets for a raffle.

The difference for me is that belief is about acceptance and politics  about understanding.  Beliefs are personal, politics impact the larger community and therefore must take the necessities of others into account.  Thing is, in America, where the political dialog is rated primarily on entertainment rather than information, it’s easy to get lazy.

Our founding fathers originally only gave the right to vote to male landowners.  The thought was these people had proven a stability and educational level necessary to understand the political issues.  The sexism and racism offend me.  Even the idea that people with money and education inherently understand the needs of the masses without those benefits is appalling.  Still, the notion that people at least make an effort at understanding the issues has some appeal.

Waiting for the parade - lunch with emus.

Waiting for the parade – lunch with emus.

We expect our legislators to at least understand.  The fact is that the issues are so complicated, and bills are so full of “extras”, that many of them are voting on the recommendations of their staffs.  We’ve heard several times in the past few years “I haven’t read the bill”.  (Go ahead and google it if you’re interested.)   How is the American public supposed to make good choices when the issues seem daunting even to our elected officials?

Back to the parade.  We rode on a political float for the local state representative to congress.  (Yes I’ve met him and can support his work, even if he’s not MY congressman.)   I’ve blogged before about small town parades and how the people throw candy from the floats.  I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “No candy, no vote!”

Dad, Orion, and I on the float

Dad, Orion, and I on the float

This is not high school.  It is illegal to buy and sell votes in this country.  It may seem that candy is a small thing compared to some of the wheeling and dealing that appears to go on behind the scenes, but in public it still counts.  This is clearly a lack of understanding of the process on the part of the voters.  It also points to a failure of the system.  Integrity is only questioned when it stands tall.

Here we come back around to spirituality.  Spiritual integrity is what Kim Davis is trying to cling to.  Unfortunately, integrity doesn’t have a leg to stand on when you’ve already compromised yourself.  If you don’t believe in something you don’t take a job where it’s demanded.  Or if the job rules change, as they did in this case, you quit and find a job you CAN perform.  She’s not being persecuted for her beliefs, as is often claimed, but for failure to perform the job.

Wearing a hajib to work probably won’t interfere with getting the work done.  It seems reasonable to allow that kind of accommodation.  Transferring someone in an organization to a place they don’t have to do work that compromises their values, like being drafted as a contentious objector, makes sense when it’s possible.  Looking for a job you can do as a vegetarian and animal rights activist at the slaughterhouse is probably not appropriate.

But these are big issues.  There are small places where we all compromise our spirituality to get along.  I drive places I could walk to.  I don’t recycle everything I could.  I’m not currently managing a compost pile.  I spend too much time indoors with the air conditioner and heater rather than outside in nature.  I’ll purchase things made in ways I object to because they are less costly.  I don’t always honor my body or take time to be grateful for my life.

We could all stand to do better both at honoring our spirit and understanding the complicated issues in the world around us.


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