A Bit 'o Random Musings on Politics, Religion, and Anything Else That Passes Through My Crazy Head

Friday, January 13, 2012

A Political Parable

Two people went up to the National Archive in Washington, D.C. to view the constitution, the one a Democrat, the other a (re)publican.

The Democrat stood and looked at the constitution and she said to herself, I am thankful that I am not as other men, voodoo economists, despisers of undocumented immigrants, haters of the EPA, or even a global warming denier, as this (re)publican is.  I protest twice in the week, and pay taxes of all I possess.

And the (re)publican, standing afar off, would not so much lift up his eyes to the constitution, but said to himself, Oh founding fathers, in your wisdom, be merciful and guide me to your original intent.  I say unto you, this (re)publican went down to his house a truer American than the other, for everyone who is overly certain of themselves should be voted out of office.

The above is a political version of one of my favorite parables in the New Testament, that of the Pharisee and the Publican, told in Luke 18:9-14:
And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:  Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.  I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.  I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

It would be easy to glean from this a lesson I have talked about on this blog before, that we need to respect one another and not look down on those who disagree with us.  I think that is a good message, and a valid way to look at this parable in a political setting.  However, I think there is more political moral to this story.

If you look at the Pharisee (the democrat in the above version), he is actually doing the right things - he is not participating in extortion, being unjust, or committing adultery.  In politics, this is akin the the rare "valid point" - when you are technically correct about something and have the facts on your side.  Note that for each of us, this probably occurs less often than we think it does - we tend to believe we are absolutely "right" about many things for which there is a compelling argument to be made on the opposite side.  But, even in the cases where we are--objectively speaking--right, we still can't be arrogant and mean-spirited.  There is an essential element of humility missing from our ego-charged political punditocracy.

I may have plenty of data to show that the earth is warming, but if I am an arrogant jerk about it, I have gone too far.  I may be able to point to many great things the EPA is doing, but if I am unwilling to admit that it is an organization run by imperfect humans, I may miss ways to make it a better steward of our national resources.  So, my point is this: humility in politics is a good thing.  Even when you're right, be gracious to those who are wrong about something.  So, I guess this does go back to my original moral after all: we need to respect one another and be civil in our political discourse.

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