I have a half dozen political blog posts sitting in my drafts folder. Sitting there, unfinished. Some end after a few paragraphs, some end in the middle of words. These past six weeks have stymied my wit and eloquence every time I sit down and try to write what I’m feeling and thinking and know.
Part of the mental block is my job–I’m a teacher and I need to set an example of rational, logical thought. When I taught AP Lang and Comp, I stressed the importance of a balance in rhetoric; I didn’t allow my students to rely on pathos at the expense of logos. Yet lately when I try to write, my fingers bleed pathos from the keys to the screen, often accompanied by tears of rage or sadness.
Modeling positive behaviors aside, I know some students stumble on my blog, and while as a private citizen I have First Amendment protections, I’m aware that even posting on my personal blog from my couch, as a teacher I’m held to a higher standard of public discourse.
As I write this, two of the five presidential candidates are debating. I am not watching. I check Twitter occasionally to see sound bites and memes, commentary from people trying to convince themselves and their followers that the world might keep spinning on November 9. Part of me feels like a failure for not watching; ever since falling 2 classes short of a Poli Sci minor at BYU, I’ve felt a moral obligation to do all I can to be an informed voter. That includes watching debates. But I cannot.
The past 48 hours have filled me with sadness and panic.
Sadness: what do I say to my students? I’ve drummed into them all of 1st quarter how important it is to pay attention to the news–I didn’t think I needed a TV-MA warning on that instruction. What do I say to my newspaper staff, kids I encourage to consult the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics every time they aren’t sure about running a story? Save for the Washington Post, I’ve been disappointed in true journalism examples for my students to emulate.
Panic: Regardless of who wins, what will happen to the stock markets and economy? Can American politics recover from these toxic 18 months? In three years will public education even still exist? If not, what else can I do? If not, will I be able to home school my nieces?
Watching this debate would exacerbate that sadness and panic, so instead, I’m writing in between texts from friends who are watching the dumpster fire of a debate.
Today at church I taught a Sunday School lesson about remaining steadfast, about keeping positive and continuing to live as the world seems to burn around you. I’m struggling with that concept, whether I can actually live that way and not simultaneously take an ostrich approach to injustice and corruption.
I didn’t watch the second debate of the 2016 Presidential election. I’ll read about it, I’ll be informed from my trusted sources. But for me, to have hope for a brighter world, I need to follow Paul’s advice to the Phillippians:
“Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Phil. 4:8)
I’m certain the debate was none of those things. But actually completing a blog post and hitting publish? Pretty sure that qualifies.