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Wiley Wandering

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Politics and Religion: The Luck of the Draw

Everyone knows that you aren’t supposed to talk about politics and religion in mixed company. I know that as well, but will do it anyway because that is how I roll, how I flow, because I do it exceptionally quick, and then change the subject. You will see me do this in a moment, but first I must set the table to lessen the anxiety of the moral majority or overtly sensitive minority (who used that word?) who won’t even process even something fairly rationale if in the context of a challenge to politics and/or religion.

As many students and faculty at SUNY Plattsburgh, many educators of North Country New York and Vermont schools and various business owners already know, and as I have mentioned before, I often conduct an educational workshop titled “Diversity Enlightenment.” Its main purpose is to situate the concept of diversity within the same context as social justice. Another critical point made in the presentation is that you can’t avoid being framed a hypocrite if you desire RESPECT while not prepared to give it at an equivalent level. The level of engagement at this moment in the presentation is always quite intriguing because of the different places people’s minds may happen to be in, relative to change and their own xenophobia (fear of difference/fear of the unknown/fear of strangers). It never ceases to amaze me how people can rationalize their right to some type of social justice or civil rights, and then stutter, stammer, or downright deny others their similar rights. But it happens, over and over again, and the writer of this blog posting (yes, your’s truly) as well as most of my blog readers are guilty of this infraction if we really take the time to consider our reality across a wide spectrum of categories (obesity, socio-economic class, ability, gender, race, age, sexual orientation, religion) and admit it.

I often tell my audiences that examples of our hypocrisy reside in our politics and religion. Oh-oh, here he goes! Yes, an example of this hypocrisy exists in the fact that the average person who steps in a voting booth could not pass an exam on the principles of their self proclaimed political party, but they nevertheless vote. Frankly, our parents couldn’t pass the exam, but because they are our role models, we vote politically the way they do, in essence, becoming as clueless as they are/were, and rationalizing the experience as something we somewhat intuit as the right thing to do for our society. So we exalt the Democratic Party, Republican Party, Independent Party, etc. over others and often bastardize our entire country over partisan politics because nobody wants to lose a contests the average Jane and John frankly don’t understand. The phrase “vote for me and I’ll set you free” really should be “vote for this and you’ll vote for that” until we really start to address larger issues of why we belong and sing certain songs. Think about it! Now, what are your thoughts?

Religion is even more of a peculiar experience. We are brought up in certain faiths with devout belief, often so devout that we take a judgmental position on others who have different faiths, or none at all, and label them uncouth, heathens, essentially lesser humans because they don’t believe what we believe, or don’t believe at all in a higher being. We never stop to think about the fact that on some level our religious affiliation is “often,” not “always” simply “the luck of the draw.” If our parents had been of a different faith, we would have been as well, and our entire world view would be different. So, Baptists, instead born Catholic, Jews instead born Muslims, Christians instead born Atheists, would all be looking at various religions quite differently. It is conceivable that someone born Christian who is condescending to Atheists could have been born an Atheist instead and prejudging Christians.

1. By the actions of people in our world do you think this is something that people think about? Why not?

2. Do you have any other examples of the type of societal or personal hypocrisy that we live or let occur, without challenge or even consideration?

3. What are your thoughts in general? Oh, come on now, you have something to say on this one I know...


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Your blog title- "the luck of the draw"- and the points you make, especially about religion- but perhaps about politics as well, remind me of a beloved, multiracial, colleague of mine who was vehemently opposed to "ethnic pride days" of any kind. She could not wrap her arms around the concept of national or ethnic pride, believing, as you so aptly put it- that it really was "the luck of the draw'.That people are simply born into families that hail from various places and that pride in one's identity was irrelevant. She believed that the things we do, say and become in this world were things about which we could feel pride- but that our race/ethnicity/nationality etc was just plain luck or fate- or part of some plan that was outside of our conscious will and we could not take pride in it. I think I agree with her. As for religion, we have a choice once we are- if we ever are, consciously aware of the teachings or codes of conduct inherent in our religions of birth as to whether we will follow or veer off of that path. The politics piece is tricky. It is a way we identify at first with our parents or caretakers- but we may redefine and this shift frequently becomes a symbol of our separation from them.
This may be a tangent, but your blog also makes me think about something I often tell students with whom I work- which is that the family you are born into is also "the luck of the draw"- or as I usually put it- " a crap shoot". You can get lucky or unlucky. You can be nourished by your family- or simply survive them. You are not responsible for who they are or what they do- just what you do once you are able to exercise your own will (a longterm prospect for those who are trapped in unhealthy family dynamics)- and the best thing is- that as adults we get to choose people to be in our lives and in a sense we get to construct new families. At that point it is no longer a matter of "the luck of the draw"- but rather, we get to deal our own hand. That is very cool, don't you think?

You asked "By the actions of people in our world do you think this is something that people think about? Why not?"
I think that politics is largely about money.
And so are some religions, and ethnic/racial issues. If, let's say, everyone in the USA somehow magically made enough money to own their own home and a car, I doubt if half of the lobbies in D.C. would need to continue.
I do agree with you about how some groups demand your attention, but will not give you theirs. Case in point- a Native American I knew once went on and on about her race's subjugation and loss of lands and resources. I tried to pipe in and say that my mother's family in Austria-Hungary lost all their lands when the USSR came into power, but she didn't care. This was in just the middle of the last century, her issue dates back further. Who should feel more hurt?
Another thought I have is about political antagonism. If I vote on a certain issue, it's because I have some experience or heard about it. In a recent election, a friend and I started what I thought was a sensible sharing of ideas about an issue. I had actual experience, and so did other family members, with the group involved/represented by the political stand. I clearly stated that I had many friends (she had none) of that group, but I felt my specific way about this one issue about them. My friend did not actually know any of them, but she felt I was not being tolerant enough. She began raising her voice, and following me out to the car, hollering at me outside, "I can't believe you're so intolerant!" Belive me, I had a time tolerating her yelling! Believe it or not, she had come over to take me out for my birthday. We drove in silence. She passed me, a bit grudgingly, a tiny gift. I had a time deciding to open it, but I did and it was very thoughtful. She was quiet (thank goodness!) at the restaurant, but as she paid the check, she sighed and just said, "I'm just so disappointed that you are so intolerant." I replied, "I'm very tolerant; I have people like you for friends."
By the way,it is the luck of the draw about who we are born to , and where and when. Perhaps if people saw this more clearly, they would realize that's why we have the Golden Rule, to treat others as you would want to be treated. It just about covers everything!

Mr. Wiley:
I greatly enjoy your blog, mainly because you ask as many questions as you provide answers. The person who knows everything already is the least interesting - or am I being biased in my judgment? Anyhow, thanks for making us all think.

*** Mike, of course I don't think you are being biased in your judgment when it has you acknowledging my worth, or as we would say growing up in the "hood" of South Central L.A., "giving love." Seriously though, I appreciate the feedback! -- J.W. ***

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