I had to get my driver's license renewed the other day. As always, the DMV was a huge pain in the caboose. I honestly believe that, were Christ to have come to earth today (as opposed to when Rome was still kicking ass), he would have, in his sermons, used two contemporary reference points as metaphors for hell: Justin Bieber concerts and DMVs. People would have been converting in the millions.
Anyway, when I was asked whether I wanted to maintain my affiliation with the Republican party, and when, upon my reply, I told the licensing agent that I'd rather be listed as an independent, the guy asked me if there were any particular reason I'd changed my mind. And I didn't have a concise answer for him.
But now, two weeks later, I do.
You see, a local news magazine here in central North Carolina called Yes! Weekly just did a cover story on a local Tea Party rally that took place in Greensboro on April 15th. The story reports that the rally, which drew several thousand supporters, saw Jeff Hyde, a Republican candidate for NC District 27, give a stirring speech wherein he met a chorus of boos when he first mentioned Nancy Pelosi's name.
Which is fine. I'm no Pelosi fan, myself, and besides, booing politicians with whom one disagrees is what someone who spends his Saturdays at a political rally does.
But when Hyde finally got the crowd to quiet down -- and the video of this can be seen on the net -- he continued: "...Nancy Pelosi says that we're 'unsophisticated cave-dwellers.'"
Which would be fine, too, I suppose, if it weren't for one small fact: Pelosi is nowhere on record saying this.
In a follow up email with the editors of Yes! Weekly, Hyde reportedly responded that he didn't know where he'd gotten the quote. "However, whether she said the specific quote or not, I believe it is her sentiment," Hyde wrote. "I also believe it is the sentiment of our president, our governor, and a lot of our other politicians. When I wrote the speech, I did so from my heart, not the research library."
Now, this type of mentality is dangerous for a number of reasons, most notably that it's entirely possible for someone to truly believe "in his heart" something about which, ultimately, he later changes his mind (for instance, as an impassioned young college student, I once believed from the bottom of my heart that dropping bombs on Iraq was the ideal retribution for 9/11. Now I don't.). Point being: Feelings and opinions change; facts don't.
But that's not my beef with this particular situation. Rather, what I find so disheartening is how Hyde concluded this line of thought:
"I take exception to [Pelosi's quote]," Hyde said. "I'd like to set the record straight with the speaker. I did not evolve out of some cave. I was divinely created by a mighty God."
Yeah, wonderful, Mr. Hyde, I believe I was created by a mighty God, too. But here's the problem: no one said we weren't. At least, not in the context you're claiming they did. Instead, you're taking an aggressive stand to "set someone straight" about something she never said in the first place.
As you might suspect, when Hyde said these words -- which is the same as sounding a Christian battle-cry -- the crowd thundered in angry applause. This is not at all unlike some kid telling the school bully that another kid called the bully's mama fat. The second kid's going to go home with a puffy lip and blackened eye, quite possibly never even knowing why. Or like Mark Twain put it: "A lie can run around the world six times while the truth is still trying to put its pants on."
As a Christian, and as a former Republican, this is the type of mentality that makes me want to scream. It's also the type of mentality that makes me want to change my political affiliation at the DMV. And apparently I'm not alone: a column in today's Greensboro News & Record reveals that 23% of North Carolina's population is now registered as independent of any party affiliation. Unfortunately however, while the number of independents is on the rise, so is the divide between partisan ideologies growing wider. You see, when words become more important than actions, and when stirring people's emotions becomes more important than telling the truth, we are handicapping ourselves from ever being able to see issues as anything more than one-dimensional. I mean, why should I take a look at health care legislation if Barack Obama says God favors abortions? Why should I pay any attention to global warming if Joe Biden says God doesn't exist? Wait, they didn't say those things? Well, I mean, it certainly seems their sentiment; so what does it really matter?
As a Christian writer and a young citizen of this country, it is among my deepest desires that we would stop trading fact for feeling, stop trading catchphrases for complex thinking, and stop invoking God's name for our own political gain. When whittled down to its core, it seems to me the reason this ploy works is because it plays on our laziness and on our fear: our laziness in that we'd rather have someone do our thinking for us and our fear that someone is trying to discredit everything around which we've based our identity.
Now, it's entirely possible I'm wrong about this assumption, but whether I'm right or wrong hardly matters, does it; so long as, in my heart, I know it to be my sentiment.