After every presidential election since the first one in which I got to vote, I have posted some thoughts on this blog or in various other places on the ‘net. You can read the 2004, 2008, 2012, and 2016 posts on this site; the 2000 post and a longer 2004 post have apparently been lost to the mists of time. This is my 2020 wrap-up.
As has become my tradition, I’m popping back on here to write up a few thoughts on the election. Only, this year, it’s going to be very different.
I won’t be talking about how I voted. I won’t be talking about how I feel about the outcome, except to say that, as I write this, it is clear beyond any reasonable doubt that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have been elected to the offices of President and Vice President, respectively. I have yet to see or hear of any shred of anything resembling evidence to the contrary, despite the many wild claims, slanderous allegations, and conspiracy theories being thrown about. Counting votes cast before an election ends is not “stealing” anything or “cheating,” even if some of the counting happens after the voting stops (as it literally always does). A shift, during the counting, in the balance of votes between a candidate who discouraged early voting and one who encouraged it is evidence of nothing except that actions have consequences; it hardly indicates fraud or other misbehavior.
I also won’t be talking about how I feel about the winning ticket or their policies or about how I feel about the losing ticket of Donald Trump and Mike Pence or their policies. If you know me offline, you may already know my thoughts on those topics, but I’m not going to post them publicly for many reasons.
What I do want to talk about, briefly, is the incredible division in the United States right now. This can’t continue, because a country can’t continue when it has been this destabilized, unless it reverses course quickly and enthusiastically. It has been incredibly hard to watch the rise of completely irrational conspiracy theories, slander of various kinds, and extremism. That’s not to mention the many false, theologically unsound, and completely unreasoned statements I’ve seen along the lines of, “You can’t be a Christian and vote for Trump,” “You can’t be a Christian and not vote for Trump,” “You can’t be a Christian and vote for Biden,” or, “You can’t be a Christian and not vote for Biden.” You’re probably sick of all of this, too—at least, I hope you are—so I’m not going to rehash everything so many good thinkers and writers have said about how divided we are, how gross many of the divisions are, how we got here, or how to make it better, if that’s even possible.
I am going to say this: I’m sorry for my role in getting us here. I have tried, especially over the last decade, to maintain a very even, respectful, fair, and civil tone on here. To my shame, that was not always true. I wrote some very divisive, unkind, poorly supported things in some earlier years, especially in my 20s, even as I prided myself on steering clear of the worst conspiracy theories and forms of misinformation. But my hands were not clean. Not even close.
Part of the problem is that I listened to some of the wrong people to get my facts. Especially in my early 20s, I took some people seriously who did not deserve then—and, frankly, deserve even less in 2020—to be taken seriously. I might tell myself, “This blogger puts out a lot of great stuff and is a great aggregator of news, even if some of her views are over the top,” or, “These people have a professional reputation outside of politics to uphold, so their report of these [alleged] facts is surely at least basically honest.” That, alas, is not a very good way to think about the internet, talk radio, television, or life in general.
Over time, especially over the last couple of years, I have removed a large number of old posts from this site. Most of them were political in nature. In many cases, they no longer represent my views on this or that topic or simply stated my views in a way I would not stand by today. Many dated from the early 2000s, when this blog (like many others) served much the same role Twitter or Instagram might now: the post might be no more than a link or image, and many of those links or images went offline long ago. In some cases, I don’t even know what the post was about or what the link pointed to.
In short, in twenty years, this blog accumulated a lot of clutter and debris that has become either useless or harmful, with no value even for archival purposes. I don’t want to leave even a link up in some cases because I do not want to drive even one more visitor to certain sites or one more listener to certain voices. So, I’ve taken down a lot of junk and cleaned up my blog, and I have revised a few posts here and there to correct inaccurate statements or remove broken links or links to unreliable information. That process is by no means done; I’m still taking out the trash as I find it.
All that said, I do owe some people apologies. Most notably, I think I owe an apology to former Secretary of State John Kerry. While I never said anything about him that I knew to be false, I disseminated some links and statements in connection with the 2004 election that I no longer believe were accurate or fair. And I apologize to everyone for the role I have played over the years in boosting bad ideas and dishonest actors and in thus helping to bring about some of the divisions we see in the United States today. I am sorry. I am working—on here and on my social media accounts—to consistently, honestly, carefully disseminate only the truth and fair analysis. As a Christian, I am absolutely committed to truth, love for my neighbor, and grace, and that extends to how I conduct myself online. Alas, living well, online or off, is a learning process, and I haven’t always gotten it right. I am sorry.
Back to this election: good grief. I can’t discuss here the entire history of the breakdown in our society that has led to alternate realities in which some people can be absolutely certain of an observable, verifiable, fact, and others absolutely certain of the opposite “fact.” But I do know that each presidential election from 2000 to the present has featured more and more conspiracy theories, slander, character assassination, and general dishonesty. Now would be a good time, if it’s not too late, for us all to commit to dealing honestly and fairly with those who do not see things the way we do. If we can’t at least reestablish a shared understanding of reality—a more or less shared ontology and epistemology—things look bleak indeed. And if we are to have any hope of that, we must stop lying about each other, declaring people are heretics (or worse) for their political opinions, and choosing to believe the worst about each other.
I don’t put my trust in earthly leaders. (See Psalm 146:3-4.) And I cannot name a single politician or other leader who speaks perfectly for me on every issue or even every issue I consider important. I will no doubt have many disagreements with everyone elected or reelected to any public office this week, as with everyone who has gone before them. But I do commit to—and hope we can all commit to—trying to treat them and everyone else with civility, charity, and respect, no matter how much I may dislike certain opinions.
Here’s hoping the next four years represent a period of healing and repair from the hatred and divisions accumulated over the last four.
Image by Bianca Mentil from Pixabay