Thursday, October 27, 2016

"He Tells It Like It Is"

If there is one thing I have heard the most from supporters of Donald Trump's bid for the presidency of the United States it is this declaration:  "He tells it like it is."

Let's think about that just a moment.  Is it actually possible to "tell it like it is"?  No.  This phrase is actually a contraction of sorts of a true statement, "He tells it like he understands it is," or "He tells it like I understand is."

We all want easy access to the truth, the actual objective truth. The things we believe we know as the absolute truth are usually things we can get passionate about, and there is nothing wrong with that. On the other hand, my mentor Verna Dozier, a woman of significant convictions and grasp of the truth was always ready to say, "There is nothing I could not be wrong about."  I know some would call that mushy-headed liberal-speak. Many of us, however, call that humility.

Of course I want those in government to tell me the truth. I recognize (and am sorrowed by the fact) that this is not always true. Our political system does not reward the truth, which can only even begin to come to light through deep conversation entered into with the above value, humility.

Some see this telling it like it is as a protest, a pushing back against, of "political correctness." My only take on that is very simple. What many call political correctness, many of us call respect for difference and upholding the value of dignity as the right of every human being. My own church tradition (Episcopal/Anglican) holds this up as one of its highest values. It is part of the covenant of our baptism that we "respect the dignity of every human being," and, as I like to say, there is no asterisk at the end of that sentence that leads to the bottom of the page where there are a series of exception clauses.  Every human being means every human being, period.

I do not come at these thought from some high and mighty, self-righteousness. In our currently extremely polarized society I have been as guilty of anyone at leaving these two values, humility and respect, at the door. I do recognize, however, that the only times I have really been part of a movement forward (which, I believe, is what all of s want, politically and otherwise) is when these values have been practiced.

Humility and respect. How would politics change if they were the primary values? How would your life and mine change if they were the primary values? I am convinced that the system will not change until we change the system, not by voting for any candidate, but by practicing humility and respect in our daily lives and insisting that those who govern do the same.

This is, by the way, even how God works. As the book of Isaiah opens, God, through the mouth of the prophet, is very angry about many things and threatens to abandon his people, but then he comes to a remarkable place:

Come now, let us argue it out, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient you shall eat the god of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken. (Isaiah 1:18-20)

In the words "willing and obedient" I hear the words "humility and respect."  The word "obedient" comes from the Latin verb "to listen." Obedience begins with listening, being in conversation, as God has said he wants. As for the last bit, the evidence that we are "refusing and rebelling" is the fact that we are devouring one another. If our society is crumbling, it is by our own hands, and the primary weapons are a lack of humility and a lack of respect, which lead to all kinds of mischief and even violence.

No one can "tell it like it is," because no one person or group of persons has the objective truth. In religious terms only God has and is the objective truth, but even he only gives us glimpses through the mist of his nature as mystery. Reminds me of a saying whose origin I do not know: "Life is not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be lived."

No comments: