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Some thoughts and a prayer

By Mike Ruffin You are probably reading this during the week before Election Day. (I am aware that with early and mail-in voting, we actually have an Election Season now. I am also aware that the presidential election may not be decided for a while. Or maybe we will know the winner when we go to bed on November 3. I’m further aware that one Georgia Senate race will almost certainly go to a runoff.) Now that the election will soon be over or eventually will be over, I’d like to offer a few thoughts and one prayer on the subject. My first thought is that elections don’t lend themselves to nuanced thinking. Candidates talk as if there are two and only two cut and dried approaches to an issue. The truth is that most’”and maybe all’”issues are complicated. I suspect that some candidates don’t do much nuanced thinking and really think that the issues are simple and straightforward. But I also suspect that most candidates don’t present nuanced positions on important issues because they figure people don’t want to hear them. I suspect they’re right about that. Shame on us. My second thought is that election campaigns are too expensive. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, almost 11 billion dollars will be spent on the 2020 presidential and congressional elections, up from 7 billion dollars in 2016. I realize that if your opponent is going to spend big, you have to spend big too if you want to compete. I also realize that political advertising is a good source of revenue for media outlets that carry it. But the amount of money spent on campaign ads is obscene. It’s troubling to think about how dependent on large donors political leaders are. My wife and I have donated more money to candidates during this election cycle than we ever have before, but our donations are still very small. Does anyone think that the winners will feel as beholden to small donors as they do to large ones? I don’t either. My third thought is that social media in general, and Facebook in particular, contribute greatly to the fracturing of our nation. The main problem is that there is just too much unvetted material on social media platforms. People see something that supports their position or their candidate or that attacks an opposing position or the other candidate, think ‘Oh folks need to see this!’ and click ‘Share’ without investigating the information presented or the source that originated it. But what they think is so helpful to their cause may not be true. It may come from a source that just makes stuff up, that has a very skewed perspective, or that promotes outlandish conspiracy theories. I know that Facebook and other platforms are making some efforts to limit disinformation, but there is still a lot of it. My fourth thought is that we need to come together. I’m not so naïve as to think we can just sing ‘Kumbaya’ or ‘All You Need Is Love’ and shake hands and hug necks (well, we shouldn’t do that anyway because of COVID-19) and just get along. Our political divisions go back at least as far as our two original political parties, the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans. But recent years have brought out, intensified, and hardened the differences between us. Where it seemed that we had for decades been slowly inching toward greater justice and equality in our society, we have lately found, to the utter shock and shame of many of us, that a large portion of our citizenry never really wanted such progress to happen and are not just willing but happy to see it halted. It has broken my heart. Maybe it has broken yours too. If it hasn’t, then there we are and that’s what I’m talking about. My fifth thought follows on my fourth one: I don’t know how we can come together under our present circumstances. I realize that whichever ‘side’ we’re on, we think that we’re right and those on the other ‘side’ are wrong (in the interest of transparency, I’ll admit that I think that way too). Our divisions are so deep because our convictions about what constitutes ‘liberty and justice for all’ and thus about what America is and should strive to be are so different. In the past I have said’”because I believed it’”that we needed leaders of differing persuasions to get together and find middle ground for the sake of the nation. Their’”and our’”perspectives and positions are so diametrically opposed now, I confess to being unable to see how we work it out. That leads me to the prayer I’d like to offer. I close with a prayer because, while I don’t see how we can come together, I believe and trust that God can help us do so. Perhaps you can see your way clear to pray it with me: ‘O God, in your mercy, help and heal us. Give us grace to receive and follow your guidance. Give us strength to do our part. Give us humility to think of others more than we think of ourselves. Bring us together through your loving power. Amen.’

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