By Hailey Joy Scandrette
I first remember really becoming aware of politics as a concept when I was 10. It was 2004, and there was an election going on. I had a couple friends whose parents talked about politics a lot at home, and who had learned to mimic conversations about politics pretty well. It all seemed very cynical and intimidating to me. The wild assumptions and name-calling that I heard from my peers are, in retrospect, understandable and excusable in ten-year-olds, but were decidedly a turn-off to me at the time. I knew that this was not the way I wanted to interact with the world, so for years I assumed that I was not a political person.
In my teens I began interacting more with political issues through theater, and through my friendships with people whose life experiences differed from my own. I began to realize that all the things I cared about on a personal level were political as well. By the time I began college, the idea that my personal choices and actions had political implications was becoming very important to me. As I’ve studied history and gotten involved with community organizing in college this awareness has continued to expand, so much so, that I can no longer pretend I’m not a political person. In fact, it is almost impossible to disentangle my acute desire to see people embraced, accepted, included, and cared for from political ideas and action.
Despite this, it can be so tempting to withdraw, even from the every-day calling I feel towards justice and compassion, because the realities of life and of the world feel too overwhelming. Sometimes I want to throw up my hands, disingenuously say that what is meant to be will be (with or without my involvement), and drift off into daydreams of a life spent writing and raising kids in a house overlooking the ocean, disconnected from the mess of life. Of course, this alternative is not only impossible, but would be incredibly unsatisfying and frustrating to me after about a month. Both personally and as someone who wants to live out the way of Jesus, I feel called to engage with the beauty and mess of the world, as a crucial part of loving people and God. Trying to do this is a political act, just as Jesus’ life and teachings were filled with radical politics.
I think it is very easy, especially during a presidential election cycle, to develop a sort of political tunnel vision that focuses only on a very small portion of the political arena. For me, falling into this tunnel vision is incredibly discouraging. Our current electoral political system is not conducive to justice, truth, compassion, humility, or kindness, which, ironically, are the exact values that drive me to engage politically. Electoral politics feeds my unrealistic desire for quick and positive change. However, this only acts to distract me from engaging in sustainable, long-term, every-day politics. Voting on a ballot is only a very small political avenue. Where I live, I vote in local and state elections once or twice a year. But I vote with my money, my time, and my energy every day.
Over the past few months, my facebook and twitter feeds have become increasingly filled with discourse on faith and politics. While I believe that this is an important conversation to have, I would like to see us go beyond discussions of faith and the election to conversations about how to love people and practice the teachings of Jesus in our everyday politics. The choices we make every day about which systems and industries we support, about who we interact with, about how we talk to our friends and families about the world, about whether we choose to view others with compassion or judgment, about whether to acknowledge our own biases and shortcomings, etc., are all political choices that shape our worldview, language, and eventually society.
Whether or not you have any faith in our political system, I believe we all have an abundance of opportunities to be radically loving in our daily politics. For me, this means not only being intentional about where and how I use my money and resources, but also challenging myself to embrace people who have different experiences and worldviews, even when this is an uncomfortable practice. I am also seeking to actively and consistently reflect on my own internal biases and lack of perspective, and use this practice as an opportunity to let go of fear and choose to view the world with love, compassion, and hope instead.
Author Bio: Hailey Joy Scandrette is a senior at San Francisco State University studying US History, and Counseling. When not ears deep in primary source analysis and note taking, she enjoys thrift shopping, writing, climbing trees, and going on long walks with her friends and family. She is passionate about social justice, living incarnationally, loving and serving others, and almost anything else that she has any opinion on.