A lot of people are depressed or elated about last night’s election results. I’m neither, because I’ve learned a few things about politics I didn’t understand in my youth.
For me, the fate of the world always seemed to hang on the next election. In 1994, when I was a lot more liberal than I am today, I felt devastated and depressed when the GOP swept both chambers of Congress. Two years before that, when Bill Clinton was elected president, I thought all would be right with the world. A lot of people had the same emotional jolt two years ago when Obama was elected.
But, you see, I’ve found in more recent years that my personal happiness has absolutely nothing to do with which way the political winds are blowing. What says it all are the lyrics from the Avett Brothers song I started this post with:
When nothing is owed, deserved or expected
And you’re life doesn’t change by the man that’s elected
If your loved by someone you’re never rejected.
Decide what to be and go be it.
My life has taken turns for the better and worse regardless of who is in office. Government can’t change me. Only I can.
I touched on this a bit after health care reform was passed in March. At the time, some of my liberal friends on Facebook hailed it as the Second Coming. My conservative friends cried treason. If anyone out there is wondering what the law may or may not do for those suffering from mental illness and addiction, I have an opinion. But it has absolutely nothing to do with the fine print of the law. All I’ll say about the law itself is that it’s not what either side thinks it is. It’ll probably do some good and cause unintended problems. That’s how it is with every law. Is this the end of bad behavior from insurance companies? To think so is to be naive.
Which brings me to this election. The important things in my life won’t change either way because the Republicans took the House. It sounds mighty apathetic of me, but that’s not the case. I used to be so keyed in when it came to politics. But I was beyond apathetic about the things I needed to do to be a better man.
I still care about politics. I vote every year without fail. And I always vote for both Republicans and Democrats. I’m moderate in my political views, which is to say I dislike extremes be it to the left or right. In the long run, Clinton having a Republican Congress to deal with worked for everyone, because nothing extreme was allowed to happen. Republicans who think the last two years were a disaster forget that when George W. Bush had a Republican-controlled House and Senate for nearly six years of his presidency, pork-fueled spending went way out of control. That will always happen under one-party control, no matter who lives in The White House.
I’m not at all upset about the election results, because we’re back to the kind of divided government that can do the least harm.
And even if that weren’t the case, I know the results would have no bearing on what I need to do for me and my family.
Some of my indifference comes from my being a student of history. Mid-term elections come and go, but much bigger events usually define whether a president succeeds or fails in the eyes of history.
Had it not been for WW II, Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency would have gone down in history as a mixed bag. Had it not been for Vietnam, Lyndon Johnson might be a revered historical figure today.
My own struggles have revealed a simple lesson:
Nothing the government does or does not do can help those who are out of their minds and slowly killing themselves with addictive behavior. Government funding for more addiction treatment centers? All well and good, but if you’re locked in your crazy head you’re not going to go to one. Making it illegal for insurers to deny coverage to someone with pre-existing conditions, including mental illness? Sounds great. But someone bent on self destruction isn’t going to be going to the doctor. They’ll go to the emergency room when the chest pains and paranoia become too much or they’ve overdosed on something.
You’re not going to find God’s Grace at the local polling station. You’ll only find it in your own willingness to change and in the people who help you through it.
Those who love you and help you through your struggles are Republicans and Democrats. And they don’t care what you are as much as they care about who you are.
I didn’t stay up until the early-morning hours watching election returns on TV like I used to. Getting a full night’s sleep was more important.
I’m not going to spend the next several days in front of the TV listening to all the talking heads on CNN and Fox News.
That’s all just a bunch of noise that no longer has meaning for me.