Love thy neighbor even while running for office

By JAY WIENER,

In early December, I received a letter from a presumptive candidate for statewide  office, in November, which suggested that:

“This fall, deep-pocketed national Democrats tried to take over our state with a campaign filled with untruths, false accusations, and liberal policy ideas that would wreck our economy and change our way of life.

“The liberals who will bankroll Jim Hood want lawless, open borders and amnesty.  They want Hollywood’s values. And they are on the march. They will say and do anything to regain power.”

Mudslinging and name-calling is the opposite of intelligent debate. Vilification of others is wrong, whichever political party indulges in the practice. Voters must draw a line prior to the upcoming elections and inform potential leaders that substituting “smoke and mirrors” for substance, and ignoring the policies and programs to be pursued if honored with election, is unacceptable.

Denigration and insult are unattractive among schoolchildren on a playground. It is known as juvenile behavior when witnessed among adults. Yet the United States so thoroughly indulges political candidates, and rewards what campaign advisors counsel them to say, that fidelity to the Word of the Lord and common sense mandates of etiquette are abandoned.

The only way that the country can return to a civilization of comity and courtliness is if the electorate insists that it has had enough of slurs and spitefulness and that ill-mannered invective will sink rather than buoy a candidacy.

Everyone has a right to one’s opinions and to vote one’s conscience. Yet, if we torpedo respectful, intelligent debate — with interest in learning from where others come and what they can share, we cannot enjoy a cohesive society: We will have become a nation of Capulets and Montagues, Hatfields and McCoys, Jets and Sharks — in the name of Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals. Such denouement might please those running for elective office, and those in an industrial complex servicing political campaigns, but other Americans are not advantaged.

Although I am not a monarchist — the reality of the American Revolution inclines me otherwise, beyond which my forebears did not depart their family and friends in the Rhineland to live in circumstances identical to those that they sought to escape — I am warmly inclined to Queen Elizabeth II. She ascended to the throne on February 6, 1952, sufficiently long ago that she is perspicacious about what constitutes a healthy polity.

Her 2018 Christmas Message, noted that, “Some cultures believe a long life brings wisdom.... Perhaps part of that wisdom is... recogniz[ing] some of life's baffling paradoxes, such as the way human beings have a huge propensity for good and yet a capacity for evil.”

She noted that, “Even the power of faith, which frequently inspires great generosity and self-sacrifice, can fall victim to tribalism.”

Observing that, “In April [2018] the Commonwealth Heads of Government met in London,” the Queen recognized that, “[The strength of the Commonwealth of Nations] lies in the bonds of affection it promotes and a common desire to live in a better, more peaceful world.

“Even with the most deeply held differences, treating the other person with respect and as a fellow human being is always a good first step towards greater understanding. Indeed the Commonwealth Games held this year on Australia's Gold Coast are known universally as the friendly games because of their emphasis on good will and mutual respect.”

The Queen concluded that, “Only a few people acknowledged Jesus when he was born; now billions follow him. I believe his message of peace on earth and goodwill to all is never out of date. It can be heeded by everyone. It's needed as much as ever.”

Mark 12:28-31 bears witness to the word that, “Of all the commandments, [t]he most important one is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

The Lord does not command that one love one’s neighbor as oneself except in the heat of campaign rhetoric: If internalizing biblical injunction, intending “to walk the talk,” then values voters must be unequivocal and demand that ethical leaders act as such in the public arena and not, hypocritically, suggest sympathy to the same solely on the Sabbath, in their places of worship.

Can the electorate commit to penalizing candidates demonizing their opponents and rewarding respectful candidates conveying cogent vision for what will be accomplished if honored with the privilege of becoming public servants?

Jay Wiener is a Northsider.

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