Yesterday, the Commonwealth of Kentucky elected a governor.
His name is Matt Bevin, and all I know about him is what’s on his campaign website. I have never met him. Never heard him speak in person, only via radio ads and interviews and what I was able to glean from news reports on his debates (I have no TV or cable).
If you know anything about Matt Bevin’s platform, and also know anything about me, you might imagine, he was not my choice. To be fair, I wasn’t crazy about the candidate I did vote for–mostly my vote for him was a vote against Mr. Bevin.
Matt Bevin’s platform, and most especially what I perceive as his thinly-veiled use of his particular brand of Christianity as a justification of that platform, makes my stomach turn. Most everything I believe about life and being in community and, yes, everything I believe as a person of faith rebels at the things I read and hear about Mr. Bevin.
But that isn’t why I’m writing this blog. Which means should you want to disagree with me about Mr. Bevin’s platform, that’s fine, but I’m not after political debate here. What I am after is what happens next. For those who are devastated at Bevin’s election, for those who are celebrating mightily, for those who didn’t care enough to vote at all, for those who were excluded from voting for any number of reasons…. For all of us, I’m after what’s next.
And so today, as I’ve tried to pick my own jaw up off the floor and find some moment of clarity in my own disappointment, I’ve given some thought to what might and what might not be helpful for us all to do and/or say in the days and weeks ahead. FWIW, here are those thoughts:
- Let’s not give in to what the media has already done and make this about the GOP v. the DNC. Sure, there are some key idealogical differences between these two parties, and it’s easy to make this an elephant v. donkey match. But I have friends who identify as conservative and/or Republican who are horrified that Matt Bevin has been elected. And I have friends who identify as progessive and/or Democrat who have become so high and mighty that they didn’t even vote yesterday, not liking their choice. And let’s be clear–the vast majority of Kentuckians who could have voted yesterday, chose not to. This is not just about Republicans v. Democrats, folks. It’s about all of us and our refusal to figure out ways to work, live and be together. It’s also about arrogance and apathy. There is no room for either of these things in building a better future for our children.
- Let’s not walk away from the sandbox, with all our toys in tow, too. I can assure you, everything in me wants to throw a plastic Tonka truck at Matt Bevin and say, “Fine. If this is the way you want it, have at it. But I am not responsible for this.” But this is my home, y’all. My daughter’s place of birth. I love this state and I love her people (ok, most of them…), and I want such good things for it. I don’t get to disengage because I’m not happy with the way things went. In fact, if I’m really convicted of what I say I stand for, now more than ever it matters that I stay engaged. Informed. That I pay attention. Speak up.
- (This one is particularly for people of Christian faith) Let’s not excuse any accountability or involvement by expressing such trite things as “My hope is in God, not elected officials.” Because y’all, lemme tell ya, elected officials have often made all the difference in the history of our country. Kentucky’s own Abraham Lincoln comes to mind. Sure, as a person of faith, I believe God is at work even in the worst of circumstances…but that doesn’t give me a ticket to back out of civic duty or engagement.
- For the love, Kentucky, let’s take this as a lesson. Voting. Matters. And when we take it for granted, we’ve done nothing but discount the men and women who have given their entire lives to be sure we have that right. We don’t get to bemoan the nations in this world who do not have a democratic process of government when we don’t even honor or participate in our own!
For my own part, I believe my beautiful Commonwealth has made a decision that will have some pretty dire consequences. People’s lives are at stake when it comes to things like health care and education and gun control. People’s dignity is at stake when it comes to same-sex marriage and the LGBT community. I am especially concerned for those who are already at the edges of society–those who battle poverty and disease and exclusion as a matter of course.
For these reasons, I say, we have got to do better.
And right now, doing better, might just mean finding a way to make a difference when there doesn’t seem to be such a way in sight. It might mean turning anger into action. It might mean backing off of our assumptions about what a person’s political party says about them, and seeking new ways to listen and understand. It might mean screaming from the rooftops, “No! This is NOT okay!” It might mean garnering a little more humility about ourselves and doing our best to eschew the arrogance that so often hamstrings us just when things matters most. And it might mean giving up some of our own comforts for those in desperate need. It might mean searching, all over again and in new ways, for whatever common ground we can find, even if its not much more than the tiniest of patches of ground.
This morning I had an email exchange with a fellow Kentuckian and friend with whom I do not see eye-to-eye politically. I acknowledged this, and then added, “But I know you and I both want good things for our children and our communities.” I believe that about him and me. And I believe its true about most of us.
And so…I’m going to do my best to hold some space up to the light and love of the universe for Matt Bevin. If I can muster the courage and humility, I might even pray for him (that might take awhile…). Meanwhile, my great hope is that we’ll find a way forward, together. Even if today we are not sure how or when or where or with what means. And I’m going to trust that all is not lost. That we can make something good out of this. That maybe–though I cannot imagine it–there is already some good to be found.
I can’t promise I’m going to be successful at any of what I suggest here. But I’ll try. I’ll do my best. Because truly, people’s lives are at stake.