I've been thinking a lot about the Presidential election lately. Even before we moved to Columbus -- probably the single-most visited city by Presidential hopefuls and their sidekicks -- I gave this election a fair amount of thought. It's been nice living here for a couple of reasons...
Living in Utah was like living in a mindless political machine. I'm sorry to all of my Utah friends who feel otherwise, but this is true. From my experience, about 95% of the state votes Republican simply because, in their mind, the term Republican seems to be synonymous with the word conservative. (For the record, this is not always true.) The other 5% seem to be comprised of people who vote Democrat simply because it's "not Republican". There are a few rare exceptions to this, but those people generally realize that their political involvement makes very little difference in Utah. (God bless those people for trying, though.) I know that I'm making a pretty broad generalization, but I think you get my point.
Living in Ohio, on the other hand, is politically liberating. You still get your fair share of crazies here, which, I will admit, can prove to be rather amusing, but on the whole, people are politically well-informed. Not only that, but they are politically interested. I'm sure that this has a lot to do with the fact that Ohio is the king of all swing states; we kind of pride ourselves on being able to pick the next President.
Why was this a Sunday thought, you might ask? Well, since moving here, I've been thinking a lot about how living in a religious culture can influence our political thinking.
For me, it was hard living in Utah because I've never been one-sided about anything in my life. Sure, I have beliefs that I hold dear and values on which I refuse to compromise, but that has never kept me from seeing and understanding both sides of nearly every stance known to man. (That's one thing I like to think that I do well.)
Having strong beliefs, religious or otherwise, should not keep us from opening our minds to other information or ways of thinking. There is a very real difference between being open minded and being open to persuasion. I think that, often times, Latter-day Saints are so set in their cultural and doctrinal ways, so to speak, that they can forget what it's like to see important issues from another point of view.
Let's use the issue of gay marriage as a quick example. (One day, I plan to do this subject justice by writing a whole post about it, but today is not that day.) Doctrinally, we understand the pitfalls of making gay marriage socially, and even legally, acceptable. However, how many of us have ever stopped to see this issue from another side? I dare say, not too many of us. But why? I genuinely think that it's because we have such firm beliefs on the subject that we fail to see exactly why other people think the way that they do. Living in a society that is over-saturated with people who believe exactly as you do, like Utah, can only exacerbate this shortsightedness.
It's important to understand as much as you can about any subject before jumping on any bandwagons. One side is never always right or always wrong. Republicans aren't always the good guys; Democrats aren't always the bad guys. I'm not trying to sway people to vote one way or another, but I am trying to sway people to do their political homework before blaring their endorsements for all the world to see and hear. Let's use our beliefs to keep us rooted while we take in all of the available information out there rather than using them to keep ourselves in the dark.