My 2nd favorite Stephen King novel is Needful Things. It’s the story of a mysterious stranger who opens up an even more mysterious shop, full of the townspeople’s greatest desires. Want a rare, autographed baseball? Got it. The price? Free, only do some vile thing to your neighbor. One by one, desire by desire, the once friendly town is torn apart, culminating in a vicious, murderous war.
I feel like I’m living in that novel. And, honestly? I think I’d rather be living in Misery. At least then I’d be able to get away to a cool mountain cabin and make a decent living by my writing.
I like Needful Things because, like most of King’s books, it takes this fantastical plot and dives straight to the human condition. We are a fickle, traitorous species. And minute-by-minute, post-by-post, we’re tearing each other apart.
And I’m torn, too. Like a lot of people, I’m torn between person and platform, believing fiercely with a certain political ideology, but being extremely uncomfortable with the person charged with bringing that ideology to the White House. I don’t (I mean, I really, really, really try never to) post politics on my social media. OK, I did make a joke about wanting to vote for Judge Judy. But I don’t comment much. In fact, I just successfully scrolled past 5 posts on facebook with which I vehemently disagree. I also scrolled past a few that I kinda “liked,” but didn’t bother with the thumbs-up. But in my private life? I am a total political junkie. I love to dissect the debates, to rage against the media machine, to layout campaign advice as if I had the ear of the candidates themselves.
For a truly fascinating read about today’s election, I suggest The Witches, by Stacy Schiff—a beautiful and insightful study of the Salem witch trials of 1692. She writes: We all subscribe to preposterous beliefs; we just don’t know yet which ones they are. We too have been known to prefer plot to truth; to deny the evidence before us in favor of the ideas behind us; to do insane things in the name of reason; to take that satisfying step from the righteous to the self-righteous; to drown our private guilts in a public well; to indulge in a little delusion.
Yeah, guilty. When I’m not playing the part of one of the screaming, hysterical, accusatory girls, I’m the hypocritical Puritan judge embracing suspicion over reason.
I’m not always tactful. A while back at a friend’s house for dinner, I went on a rant, using words to describe a candidate that would have made Billy Bush blush. Later, convicted, I apologized to my friend. I’d spoken against the candidate she supports, I was a guest in her home. I’d been rude and insufferable and obnoxious. The words I used to insult the candidate were ultimately insulting to her. And while it’s true that we all have a right to an opinion, we are under no obligation to share it.
That night, I became a player in the game I’m slowly beginning to hate. I forgot that behind her vote lives a person that I deeply love and respect. I can’t fling mud at her candidate without catching her in the spatter.
And you know what? We’re all supposed to love each other. Whether we agree with them or not. Maybe especially if not.
Does that mean I’ve given up on political discourse? Not at all. But I think I’ve learned to be a little more respectful. And if not respectful, then quiet. And if not quiet, then at least careful to do my plotting and dissecting and ranting and venting with those with whom I’m not likely to offend. It’s a conscientious choice to avoid a political fray. My opinion is simply not—ever—worth offending someone else.
I feel like we’ve elevated voting from a simple civic duty to an all-encompassing judgment of a person’s existence. I’ve seen such vicious attacks between friends, between family members, between utter strangers who have no earthly business arguing with each other. We act as if each campaign—each issue within the campaign—is a two-sided coin. Heads, I’m right; tails, you’re wrong. But no issue is limited to two sides. It’s more like a disco ball, a thousand nuanced surfaces that become something new in spinning light.
Here’s the deal: God willing, we’re all going to be here sharing the country on November 9th. And we’ll be sharing it under the leadership of the person God appointed at creation—long before any words were secretly recorded or deleted. Like my mother used to say when we were about to confront an unpleasant situation: Prepare to get happy. Now, decide what your first step is going to be.