DCC News

 

Weekly e-newsletter for members and friends of the Dublin Community Church

 

September 5, 2008

                                                           

Save it for Brenda Lee

It’s that season again and since both political parties have had their conventions, perhaps I can weigh in on one topic, which cuts across both parties. Both participate in the same thing and so I am speaking of no political party in particular yet I am speaking of both.

I was watching one of the conventions recently and the speaker was holding forth on the usual topic, which always is…why we should not like the other party, candidate, philosophy, type of patriotism and general demeanor. The political speaker then went on to tell us the virtues of their party and why it is a better party, has a better candidate, philosophy, is more patriotic and is kind to puppy dogs. The speaker then went back into the negative for awhile and described in detail the vile attributes of individuals in the opposing political party. When they finished their description of “those” people in the opposing party, I realized that they had just described all of the things that I hold near and dear concerning politics. I had essentially been likened to a “ne’er do well” who was not fit for society.

I doubt I would have been voting for that person’s party or candidate but that is just politics. You decide who and what to vote on and go do it. But, maybe it is my age. While I am not offended, (I have been called worse) I get a little sad for the state of political discourse, or the lack thereof.

Permit another story before I return to this.

Every year in New England there is an outdoor camp for kids from Israel, Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq and other war-torn nations. It is for teenagers from those countries. They gather for a week at a traditional American-style summer camp, complete with boys & girls, sports and campfires and maybe even some good-natured food fights. But this is serious business amidst the fun.

The camp also invites NBA basketball stars to come to the camp to work with all of them on their basketball and their interactive skills. Basketball is pretty universal these days and every kid can play or try to play this game. And as we all know, lessons in team sports are lessons for life. The NBA players lend a certain “star power” to the camp and it is quite a thrill for the campers. The players are quite good at showing the foreign kids what it is like to learn a lay-up or fast break or shoot a foul shot.

But there are times when the NBA players are the students and they sit and learn…like when there are discussions about differences between nations; when there are differences between Israelis and Palestinians; when there are heartbreaking stories to share; when there are open discussions about discrimination and name calling. Campers sit and listen and learn the effects of stereotyping others.

 

The NBA stars, who are older than these teens from other countries are quite taken by the depth of the discussions. They realize that these kids from other countries where war and confrontation is a reality have strong feelings about their daily lives. It is remarkable that there is a camp like that for them to feel safe in those discussions.

A Palestinian girl shares a heartbreaking story about loss. An Israeli boy tells of a soccer team in his country where Israeli students come to the match and shout harmful and hurtful things about the one Palestinian on the team.

These are stories that the other side never hears about their “enemies” and upon further discussion; maybe they are not enemies after all. But at least for one week in the year, at one Summer camp, there is respect. And it occurred to me that these foreign teens from war-torn countries were better at showing respect to each other than our politicians are to Americans in the opposing political party. It’s an inspiring story of listening and learning.

I was in a business place recently, which plays TV all day and I heard some very angry people on TV expounding on political topics. Lots of anger. No respect for the other side.  I asked one of the workers in the place if he just heard what the political commentators were saying, he said, “No, the TV is on every day, all day long and I just tune it out.”

I’d like to tune out the politicians but I can’t and at this stage in life I feel some responsibility for politicians’ actions and words. After all, it was my generation that actually thought it could change the world. In many noble ways we have. But in the way that we address our political opponents who disagree with us, in the way we address the leaders of other countries who disagree with us, we have failed. And I just feel like I should apologize to my daughters for that failure.

Ultimately, my plan is to bring in some Israeli and Palestinian teens and NBA stars and have them all work with our politicians, especially during election year.

Peace, Rev. Bob Tussing