Watching Mitt Romney and Barack Obama waltz around each other in a smug fact-war sparring match is a surreal experience. Suddenly, the iconography and grandeur of the political system becomes human: approachable and reproachable at the same time. The debates have been both informative and mind numbing, for me mostly numbing. I am certain that both men are exceptional individuals with strong convictions about the United States. But foundational world views, which are almost always grounded on non-quantifiable gut-feelings about the nature of reality and the future, can rarely be swayed in debate. I always think about Thomas Macaulay’s quote ‘the object of oratory alone is not truth, but persuasion,’ and how hard it is to persuade someone whose job it is to represent a particular world view. It leaves little room for honest learning.
This is partly why I believe so much in what we do at Invisible Children. We are trying to stand beside something, stand for something that is beyond politics. Something that the vast majority of us can agree on: mass murder, genocide, and child soldiering should be a thing of the past. Not the present, and certainly not the future. Of course any belief can be politicized, artificially interpreted with conspiracy theories and hopeless world views, as ours has been by some. But we do not accept that and we fight against it. Emerson famously said, ‘People do not seem to realize that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character.’
My opinion of the world is a hopeful one. One that does not discredit a voice or a life because of skin color, culture, access to opportunity, or inclusion into some special society. We are all worthy. That is why KONY 2012 gave me so much hope. Everyone, even for a moment, cared about something remote but important and felt worthy to lend their voice. What a hopeful future, even if only a first small step.
So, if you are like me, tired of political acrobatics and fact-wars, step back for a moment, and stand for something that there should be little debate about: the people asking the leaders of the world to prioritize human rights in the most extreme cases of injustice. Both sides can stand together for a moment in friendship and common purpose. That is what I’m doing November 17th at MOVE:DC, and I hope you are too.
It is when we have a common goal that we realize our brothers and sisters on the other side have far more in common with us than we thought. And once the safety of friendship is formed, real dialogue can follow.
And after you’ve lingered in the sober head-space of human compassion that is beyond politics… catch your breath, and return to the political mosh pit. It’s worth it. Do research, study the candidates, and vote. Keep your humanity and empathy at the center. Do not be tempted to vilify or mock the other. The system may be imperfect, but humanity is imperfect, and democracy is the imperfect mitigation of flawed humans living together, and it is one of the greatest achievements in human history. It is a sincere privilege that most of our ancestors never had. Indeed, it is a privilege that many people in the world today, those subject to the human rights abuses we fight to stop, do not truly have.
Be proud of your citizenship, your humanity, and your actions.
Life is too short not to tell stories about what you’ve fought for.
I know what I’m fighting for.