When I was a high school sophomore, I ran for president. I think I made a great speech, although I don’t recall a single thing I said. People clapped, they voted, and I was elected to serve. It was exciting to run for office; it was easy to make a speech, but the job of president was difficult. It was hard to be a sixteen year-old class officer and I don’t think I did a very good job.
Since that time, I have had a love/hate relationship with political horse races. I’ve campaigned for political candidates at the grass root levels, pounded the pavement with brochures, waved signs, and written checks. As time passed, I grew cynical and tired. Candidates of both major parties would raise billions of dollars to become president and lots of wheel-heeled folks would form political action committees (PACs) to raise billions more for both political parties. They would tell me the parties were distinctly different.
Today, as I drive to work along a beautiful stretch of Route 1A through North Hampton and Rye Beach, New Hampshire, I will pass some palatial homes, some within a stone’s throw of the Atlantic Ocean. Both candidates are well-represented with political signage. Through my naïve analysis this election cycle, I’ve concluded both political parties are probably pretty much the same.
The 2 party-system is perfect for maintaining the status quo. It divides people into two factions who fight with each other instead of looking at serious problems and figuring out solutions. Part of the problem, in my opinion, is the very enormous structure of government itself. Left or right, if a person is looking for “the government” to fix a problem, they’re asking for bigger government. This dialectic goes on, with people fighting each other, neighbor against neighbor. Our currency continues to lose value, our bridges continue to crumble and the beat goes on. People ask “why?” and blame “the other side.”
Divide and conquer has worked for a long time, even in my own family.
In 2008, I started thinking about all these things. I stopped campaigning and writing checks. I started wondering what it would look like to love my neighbor when I wasn’t sure I liked everything about them. I started thinking about this idea all the time and now it infuses my actions towards others. I am imperfect at best. On the days I want to point out someone’s foolishness, I try to think “can I deliver this message in love” or “will it alienate one of my neighbors?”
What does “peace” look like if it begins with me?
No matter which party wins the presidency this year, I’m planning to do many of the same things I always do, including the things I do for free. I’ll keep the flowers in my Surprise Garden blooming and I’ll keep the water flowing at The Hampton Victory Garden. I’ll support local farmers by participating in Community Sponsored Agriculture (CSA). I’ll keep trying to grow more of my own food. I’ll keep writing about it.
Most importantly, I’m going to vote for my neighbors, my friends, and my family this year and I’m going to keep trying to love them, no matter what.
The thoughts, ideas, and voluntary actions of Julie-Ann Baumer have not been paid for by any candidate, political party, or political action committee.