On The Temptations of Politics

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Next to the defeat of Clinton and the consequent derailment of her globalist, left-wing agenda, the best thing about the election season is that it’s over. Trump won, and from here out we will return to the daily grind of governing and being governed. Even if the new normal entails endless protests from disgruntled children stomping their feet in the streets, things will return to routine.

For sane people, this should mean the chance to relax our focus on politics. Those of us who felt compelled to wade into the fray, even to a small degree, to stop Clinton can return to thinking primarily about other less urgent, more important matters.

The temptation, of course, is not to do so. Perhaps especially after a tumultuous, high-stakes election, the temptation for many of us is to stay glued to the television, to continuously refresh the Drudge Report, hungry for any morsel of information that might let us know what will happen next.

For some, this is anxiety at work. As a nation, we are in uncharted territory. Trump’s victory is significant, not only because it indicates a shift in power, but because it seems to herald a deeper shift in our culture, in the overall zeitgeist. It’s tempting to try to calm jittery nerves by staying attuned to any development that might let us know more about where we are going.

For a larger group though, the temptation to over-focus on politics is simply the temptation to indulge their outrage addiction. There’s plenty to be outraged by. The outrage generated this weekend by the cast of Hamilton delivering a sanctimonious lecture to the vice-president elect is enough to see us through a full four-year term. But, rest assured, more outrages will come. They come now on a daily basis. This is the way of a dying culture.

Being outraged feels good. Leaving that zinger of a comment on a liberal friend’s Facebook post that you are sure will leave her speechless in light of your insight and wit feels like striking a blow for all the is good and wholesome and right. But, it’s an illusion, at least mostly an illusion.

The other day, Sarah Albers, who tweets under the handle @goingblondzo, had something valuable to say. She wrote:

I agreed, but pointed out that they are also the least fun, and so the least utilized. Certainly, the fun they produce pales in comparison to the fun of a few minutes of political outrage. We all know this, thus our greater temptation to outrage than to silence.

We’re also tempted to keep our focus on politics to a degree that the daily ins and outs of power do not warrant because doing so makes us feel part of a team, powerful, relevant. Somehow, we imagine that the daily wins and losses of the political process are our personal wins and losses. Politics becomes a kind of theater whose purpose is to enliven our drudgery, excite our emotions amidst our menial and difficult lives. Keeping close track of the travails of our side lifts us out of and, too often, distracts us from the hard work we’ve been assigned right where we are.

And that work, the totally unglamorous, everyday work of our callings and missions is a better focus for us than politics. Politics is the exterior of the house. We must attend to the foundation as only we can. The power of the state can only do so much, and what it can do is not enough to revive our ailing society.

Instead, we must keep the churning of the political world in perspective, grateful for what good it can do, but not expecting more. We must focus our labors on what is too deep for politics to touch. This means parenting, teaching, being a neighbor, practicing the slow, hard art of persuasive conversation.

Every choice we face is an opportunity to defend Truth, and Goodness, Beauty and Civilization. The man who, now that election is decided, turns off the news to lift his child into the air and swirl her madly in the mundane air of a boring old living room, does more to secure our future than most can imagine. Let us all, every one, be that man in this new and even more important season.

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