At a very young age, I became enamored with politics. I have always loved the Fourth of July, the Declaration of Independence and what an incredible document the Constitution was (stick with me here). In large part, I felt like these symbols of our America were THE most important thing in our lives. As many of our family trips were to Washington D.C. and a lot of the books and souvenirs we had in our house were about the Presidents, the flag, mint coin sets and the founding documents, I had a very strong connection to the institutions those symbols represented. Moreover, they all had such a strong emotional connection of security and togetherness in a family which had little of that.
Over the years, my political engagement kept rising. Actively engaged in high school politics and debate, as well as, college, activist and editor of a political magazine, my view points were kept solidly within the picture frame which held my personal copy of the Declaration of Independence at my desk. I campaigned for Presidents, city council members and school board presidents. My interest in politics and democracy had only limits of what was possible by the inspiration of these leaders.
In retrospect, the passion of my politics and the fervent nature of my advocacy were no different than the love of a sports team (insert your favorite tribe here) where my identity and self-worth were wrapped up on the success and representations of a small group of individuals (white men, mostly). With some perspective away from the issues and the candidates, I began to realize that those two things are not intertwined and do not have to be connected. I can love and appreciate the game of baseball without also ridiculing Red Sox fans. This could never have been conceivable in my twenties. I mean, who am I if not somehow a long lost cousin of Paul O’Neill? The same feels true for Politics and Patriotism.
Now, I see politics for what it is, another tool in a tool kit. How that tool is used is up to me. Right now, I see politics as a means to an end for justice but merely justice in this plane, in this lifetime. But, America, may not be so great and probably won’t be around for a very long time. No one thought Romans’ demise was ever possible. See how that ended. So, politics are still an important part of my life as I find it difficult to live in a world which is unjust, yet I also know that it all matters very little in the grand scheme of the universe and eternity.
Feeling liberated from the hold which symbols and emotions have had on my views, I now sit at my desk with the same copy of the Declaration of Independence, but marked up with a red pen. It is improved by a few revisions. Can’t we all?