I don’t care about politics.
I’ve thought this for many years with a very limited amount of guilt. The reasoning behind this apathy has been motivated by my desire to reject various forms of conflict. That is not to say I am above conflict; to be honest I often handle problems with another person in a less than ideal confrontation. However, there is something about the separation and segregation of political groups that terrifies me. I am intimidated by a strong sense of right and wrong. I like to think I am somewhere between this ethical divide. An unyielding maybe.
I am convinced that when I listen only to my voice, I am simultaneously choosing to mute the voices of others. When I allow this to happen I surrender myself to stagnancy.
When talking with someone who strongly feels one way or another about an issue, I grow uncomfortable. Not because I disagree with them, but because I wonder how much investigation they have conducted to understand the opposite end of the spectrum.
I recently read a poem that describes what happens when we are strongly convinced of something.
The Place Where We Are Right
“From the place where we are right
Flowers will never grow
In the spring.
The place where we are right
Is hard and trampled
Like a yard.
But doubts and loves
Dig up the world
Like a mole, a plow.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
Where the ruined
House once stood.”
Despite my strong feelings against taking sides, I am realizing that I can not deny that the world depends on opinions. We look to the media to interpret and analyze the variety of situations occurring throughout the world. It is irrational to trust the news to be completely objective, yet, I do it all the time without much consideration otherwise. I depend on the opinions of doctors, writers, political leaders and artists. I sometimes even depend on the opinion of my waiter when I don’t know which entree to pick from a menu.
Although I enjoy living in the realm of maybe, I can acknowledge that without strong opinions I tend to settle into complacency. I do not want to transform the world around me because I am afraid of inserting myself into a place where I do not belong. Yet, this is how alterations happen. People rebelling against the set standards of political structure. People who are brave enough to live out their visions for change. People who are not ashamed to declare “I know a better way!”
These thoughts are now hitting me as I survey the political nature of the conflict between Israel and Gaza. Two sides who are convinced that their separate agendas are correct. However, there is an obvious clash when these two ideas run into each other. I can’t even begin to pin point who is right and who is wrong in this situation. At this point I would say that both parties are wrong, which may mean that they are both right? And that is my point: if both sides think their behavior is completely justified, how will an agreement ever be reached? It may be written up in superficial terms, yet, it is lost without the understanding of your enemy’s perspective.
The whole conflict has left me feeling helpless and scared. For the first time in my life I have obsessed over the news, waiting for the next horrifying report to pop up on my Google search for current events in Israel. I am worrying about my friends who were called back to the army to serve near Gaza. I cringe every time I hear an air craft flying closely overhead. I feel my heart rate speed when I am sitting on a crowded city bus.
Yet, I understand there is a high dose of irrational thinking in my behavior because I am in probably one of the safest cities in Israel. But the conflict now feels more personal for me. I am no longer in Minnesota, stumbling upon bits and pieces of news somewhere in my day to day life. I am in Israel, the country where the media spotlights are pointing at. I don’t have the choice to turn off the news because the conflict affects my friends from here and therefore it affects me.
I am asking myself questions about justice, peace, and humanity.
I am asking myself what I can possibly do.
I don’t yet know the answer to these questions.
Despite not knowing an exact course of action to take, I am beginning to understand that it is not enough for me to make my bed in between the spectrum of strong opinions. Allowing myself to live in a complacent manner helps no one even if my intentions may be well.
Is it possible to be a strong maybe? Perhaps I need to focus on the ideas that I feel strongly about, like valuing human life, and figure out my course of action based on behaviors that compel me to strongly feel.
And perhaps I will have to dip my toes into the political waters.