Scripture pushes us to see the good in all things. And, given the acidity of our public discourse, that lesson has never been more important.
You catch a glimmer of it in Philippians 4:8-18: “In conclusion, my friends, fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honorable.”
But does this apply to politics? It ought to.
I think about how I want to raise my kids, and the values I want to instill. I think about the world I’d like them to live in, and how I think people should treat one another. I think about how much better off we’d all be if — no matter how seriously we take our politics, our tribes, and our causes — we were careful not to take ourselves too seriously.
And sometimes, I think the only wall we need is one between my kids and the political system. After all, so much of what we see in there runs counter to what I’m trying to teach them.
I think about how terrific it would be if we could — as they used to say in grandpa’s day — agree to disagree without being disagreeable. I think about how nice it would be if people who normally disagree about almost everything were able to come together for worthwhile causes they believe in.
Then I look at the disaster area that our politics has become, and I get depressed. I realize that, for the most part, I’m just pining away for something that used to be but isn’t anymore.
Look at what happened to poor Joe Biden. The former vice presidential, and likely 2020 Democratic frontrunner, actually said something nice about another human being. And because this other human being belongs to another party and has views on same-sex marriage than run counter to the views of many on the left, members of Biden’s own party made him eat his words.
Biden’s slip of the tongue occurred recently while he was attending a Forum in Global Leadership at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. At one point, he was talking about Mike Pence — an old friend of his — and how the current vice president was received at the Security Conference in Munich, Germany, a few weeks earlier.
And then, with no warning, Biden said the unthinkable: “The fact of the matter is it was followed on by a guy who’s a decent guy, our vice president, who stood before this group of allies and leaders and said, ‘I’m here on behalf of President Trump,’ and there was dead silence,” Biden said.
Biden would have been lucky if his comments had been met with mere silence. No chance. Left-wing critics of Pence teamed up with politicians eager to cozy up to the LGBTQ community during a presidential election to register their disapproval with Biden’s kind word about Pence — and to demand that the likely 2020 presidential contender retract the compliment.
Former New York Democratic gubernatorial candidate and actress Cynthia Nixon tweeted a warning: “@JoeBiden you’ve just called America’s most anti-LGBT elected leader ‘a decent guy.’ Please consider how this falls on the ears of our community.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has already entered the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, seconded that. Speaking to reporters in Iowa, Warren said this: “I’m sorry, I followed Pence’s history on LBGTQ Americans and I don’t think that is a decent position.” And when asked point-blank if she thought the vice president was a “decent” person, she said, “No.”
In a stunning display of cowardice and character deficiency, Biden folded. “There is nothing decent about being anti-LGBTQ rights, and that includes the vice president,” he tweeted.
For a more inspirational example of public figures behaving better, consider the fact that comedian and former talk show host Jon Stewart seems to have finally found something he likes about the Trump administration.
That something is the “excellent job” that Stewart says the Trump Justice Department does in administering the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. The program gives benefits to public servants who acted heroically on one of the worst days in U.S. history: first responders who suffer from cancer and other illnesses due to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
The victim fund needs permanent funding, and a bipartisan group of lawmakers has introduced legislation to provide it. Sponsors include Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) but also Rep. Peter King (R-NY) and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO).
Stewart loves the idea, and he has joined with the families of 9/11 first responders to make the rounds on Capitol Hill and rally support for the bill.
Hallelujah. There may yet be hope for the human race. And it starts with acknowledging the good — wherever we find it.
Ruben Navarrette is a contributing editor to Angelus and a syndicated columnist with The Washington Post Writers Group and a columnist for the Daily Beast. He is a radio host, a frequent guest analyst on cable news, and member of the USA Today Board of Contributors and host of the podcast “Navarrette Nation.” Among his books are “A Darker Shade of Crimson: Odyssey of a Harvard Chicano.”
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