One of my favorite words is “vitriol;” not because I am a fan of what it is but because to me, it sounds exactly like what it is. It contorts my tongue and makes my upper lip want to lift into an asymmetrical wince. The word is perfect. What it is, is not.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like a sponge, soaking up the vitriol of others no matter where I turn; roadside signs, overheard conversations, social media, television and print advertisements, 24-hour news channels. According to my dictionary, in “archaic literature” vitriol was the word used for sulfuric acid. Perhaps if I continue to soak up all this vitriol like a sponge, you will be able to use me as a battery.
My parents and I don’t see eye to eye very much on politics and some lifestyle choices. We debate our points of view and their merits and contrast them against the other’s point of view. Sometimes, we get passionate about our point of view. Sometimes, we get frustrated with each other’s point of view. What we never do is get cruel and bitter. If we are bitter about anything, it is the people with whom we agree that use vitriol, whose main goal as far as we can tell is to be divisive.
It seems the current political landscape is one where rather than striving to have more people FOR you or your candidate, you are more interested in turning more people AGAINST your opponent or their candidate. Political talk, advertisements, social media postings and so on and so forth seem more interested in pointing out the “evil” in their opponent (especially if their personal life can be brought to bear) rather than explaining how the evil perceived in themselves by their opponent is actually better for the country, state, town. Candidates seem content to be the lessor of two evils, so vilifying their opponent is just as effective (perhaps more?) than proving their own worth. And as far as I can tell on the news and on social media, proponents of those candidates believe likewise.
Do you know what’s great about the debates I have with my mom and dad? Freedom and the assumption of best intentions. I don’t agree that my parents’ way or their political beliefs are always the best way, but you know what? They are free to have that opinion, and I believe that in their minds, they DO believe it is the best way. I can point out problems and solutions, and sometimes, perhaps I may sway them, but if I don’t, I still love them. You know what is even better than that? THEY STILL LOVE ME!
I wonder what would happen if we moved beyond vitriol. I’m not suggesting we become less passionate about what we believe. Perhaps, I am suggesting we become more passionate about what we believe and the good we believe that would result and a less concerned with vilifying our neighbors.
I wonder what would happen if we rejoiced in our freedom to disagree and were able to shake hands with people who disagree with us. Could we view them as misguided from our perspective but from their own perspective focused on what they believe is the best way? If we could, could we still love them?
Could we be a community? Could we have real, sustainable diversity?
Could we view everyone as made in the image of God and worthy of love regardless of who they are voting for?
Please, by all means debate, discuss, criticize. Just maybe think about being less cruel, less bitter.