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My Huffington Post Piece: ‘A Clear Measure of the Choice Before Us This Election’

As many of you know, I’ve been volunteering with the campaign to reelect President Obama. Over the last few months, I’ve been able to talk with many different voters about what they believe and their vision for our country. Talking with voters has been such a gift in that it has also allowed me to better understand why I am standing with President Obama. Today, I’m excited to share some reflections on the campaign that I’ve put together for the Huffington Post.

Here is an excerpt from the post:

Both American history and world history can be seen as a momentous struggle between “all” and “just us.” Abraham Lincoln helped us see that the Civil War was fought so that the United States was a place for “all.” We have been imperfect in this commitment but do rise to it in our best moments. The central struggle of the 20th century was between the exclusive vision of world domination and the promise of the Allies to include. The generous up-building of our enemies and the creation of the United Nations after the war are inspiring examples of including “all.”

The future has to be “all” or there simply will be no future. The continued turn toward “all” and away from “just us” is the great work of the 21st century. President Barack Obama has been unwavering in his faithful lifting up of “all” even in the face of unrelieved Republican animosity as well as some frustration on the left at his open hand.

I encourage you to continue reading this post and to share your own thoughts. Please share with your friends and help spread the word.


5 Responses
  • Donna on October 20, 2012

    Hi Janet,

    I’ve not visited here nor Time To Embrace for a while…my political and spiritual evolution continues toward their roots, and so I suspect I will not visit here at all at some point.

    With regard to your article, I find it interesting that you see this political/election cycle as “Obama = All” versus “Romney = Just Us”. You may be 100% correct with regard to their respective visions for the United States. In fact, I agree with you, to an extent, but not completely.

    First, you discuss the social and spiritual implications and influences of both in sweeping generalization, which is precarious, and you exclude economics. In terms of the economy, Obama wishes to level the playing field for all, but by forcing one part (the wealthy) to pay more, and by increasing the burden on businesses from a 35% tax rate to 45-50%. As one entrepreneur wrote to his employees (paraphrased here): …If you came to work one day and I told you I had to take 50% of your income, you’d quit and go somewhere else…That’s what’s happening to me…I don’t need to be in business. I can quit tomorrow and retire on the beach under a palm tree.

    That one employer equates to 4,000 jobs.

    I have to ask: what is the reason for the desire to “level the playing field”? Is it to give the poor the chance to be rich? Or is it to give the poor and the rich the chance to be middle class, so that mediocrity is all we have to which to aspire? Or is “leveling the playing field” a social objective of providing equal opportunity for the poor, such as a Harvard education for those who otherwise can’t afford Harvard? To me, it sounds like Obama’s goal is the former, in which case, who decides which child can go to Harvard and which child takes on a trade? How is brilliance distinguished? What is deemed art or worthy of publication? In short, who decides when individual effort is worthy of note or suppression? If this is Obama’s “all” in terms of “leveling the playing field,” then I agree with the pundits who say Obama wishes to punish or suffocate success, dissolve individual wealth, and diminish individual achievement to acceptance of the lot one is given in life. Such theory is inherently communist.

    Second, you discuss the need for politics and religion to be more global, with the implication that being global is inclusive of all. Here I have to ask, does the global “all” include Israel and the entire Middle East or does the global “all” include the Middle East to the detriment of Israel? To me, it seems Obama’s goal is the latter, and I disagree with the pundits who use religion here as their basis for believing so. Rather, I cite the global, post-World War II decision to give the Jewish people a homeland. The Jewish people suffered diaspora throughout the ages culminating in near elimination in death camps. It is enough for the entire world to shout loudly at anyone who wishes further destruction upon Israel: “Leave Israel be!” This basic compassion, and the will to back it up, belongs in Obama’s global “all” but it is not there.

    On the other hand, on the first point, Romney believes in inspiring individual creativity and entrepreneurial spirit, not just for the individual’s sense of achievement but for the prosperity it brings to others as well. Where for centuries there were only two classes: the rich and the poor, Romney recognizes the inspirational effect of being able to move from poverty to affluence based on one’s ability and persistence, as well as a person’s wish to achieve according one’s own definition of success (i.e., one person’s definition of success may mean having ten children albeit being as poor as church mice, while another person’s definition of success is having no debt, and yet another’s is owning a mansion and a couple of BMWs).

    To me, the United States as a republic guarantees opportunity for all, not outcomes for all. To me the difference between Obama and Romney is the difference between communism and republicanism. It’s the difference between saying “Everyone who wants to be a firefighter can be a firefighter,” resulting in a crop of firefighters, some with the incessant passion of doing for others and others who do it as just a job. Or, “Everyone who wants to be a firefighter can be a firefighter, if you pass the tests, if you prove you have what it takes,” resulting in a crop of firefighters who mostly have that passion to do for others, and only a few who do it just as a job.

    On the second point, I think Romney wisely sees the global “all” not only as including Israel, but as an economic necessity rather than a social or spiritual necessity. It is the social and spiritual that has caused war for centuries (and continues to do so in the Middle East), and it is only recently that economics has caused war (or caused the United States to become involved in wars, despite whatever politicians might have said with regard to helping others to “freedom and democracy.”). To me, Romney’s goal of being energy-independent is the single-best thing the United States can do to both prosper global economy and policy as well as prevent future wars. It’s like John Nash’s economic theory of choosing none of the options available. Although, of course, I am all for continuing to develop wind and alternative energy resources concurrently, and I think Romney is too, given better business plans for such ventures.

    Lastly, you point to the differences in each candidate’s religious beliefs as their guiding forces in terms of political strategy. I would ask for you to clarify for me what Obama’s religion really is. You say he is United Church of Christ. He has said he is Muslim. The church he belonged to for years preaches anti-white and African-American liberation theology and (from what I’ve seen and heard) hatred against the United States for its historic role in African slavery. From what I have heard and seen about Romney, he practices his faith and does not preach it, preferring humbly to live out the Christian principle of “loving neighbor” rather than preaching it, too humble to speak of his faithful acts himself, and praying unseen and unheard. If you would take the time to clarify this for me, I will consider myself thoroughly educated on the matter.

    I’ve vowed not to vote anymore on just social issues, but only the economy, because this country can only be a sound republic for its own citizenry and global neighbors when she is strong enough in her own right to be able to give. Which allows me to leave you with one last question: Is it possible to come to a decision on the candidates for this election by using the Parable of the Talents?

    Sincerely,

    Donna

    PS I no longer engage in discussion at Huffington Post. My experience there was to be called “mean,” referred to as a “bagger” and a racist (simply because I believed in Romney), and – what a riot! – presumed “wealthy.”

  • Janet Edwards on October 25, 2012

    Dear Donna,

    Wow, that is a lot of food for thought! Thanks for it, though I will not respond in comparable detail so may disappoint you. I do want to respond to your broad points.

    As I have listened during this campaign season, I think it is more accurate to say that President Obama wants everyone “to play by the same rules” which is significantly different from wanting to “level the playing field.” Rules are made by the powerful and I think there is good evidence that the powerful (rich) in our country have created a set of rules for themselves that favors their well-being. Do you see a difference and does it make you more comfortable with the President’s approach?

    I think it is fair to say that Governor Romney, in his business career, benefited greatly from what is called the “creative destruction” of free market capitalism. He used private equity to destroy or reshape companies in order to gain profit for his shareholders (including himself). It is certainly evident that this displaced a lot of workers. The Great Depression taught the world that government has a valid role in mitigating the harshest aspect of capitalism to help such displaced workers to transition to other work. I see nothing that indicates President Obama wants government to do anymore than that in partnership with business to improve our commonwealth as a people.

    Finally, you need to show me where President Obama says he is a Muslim. I tend to agree with the woman I spoke with that rainy Sunday while canvassing that both are good Christian men (if I grant that Mormonism is Christian, which I think has only newly been embraced by the Mormons, themselves). I appreciate the stories told of Gov. Romney showing deep compassion for individuals and families he has helped in his church and community. What he seems to lack is the ability to see the necessary shift from individual care to societal policy (I suspect this gap may be reflected in Mormonism but I do not know enough about it toknow for sure). If Gov. Romney is president, he simply can not go to every home in America and sit with the suffering. This requires policy, a need President Obama has shown he completely understands. The most significant policy to benefit, over the long term, our economy, our health care system and every person in our country is Obamacare. I am eager for it to continue to unfold and I see his valuing of policy arising clearly from the UCC perspective on community.

    With regard to looking at our choice of president through the lens of the Parable of the Talents, I invite you to give us your views on this.

    Peace, Janet

  • Donna on October 26, 2012

    Hi Janet,

    Thanks for responding, though you leave unanswered the most important questions. If you do an internet search, you’ll find the interviews of Obama talking about being Muslim.

    I’ve researched the past several months both Obama and Romney. What Romney did at Bain Capital was business. I rather like the idea that he can look into an organization, determine whether it can be savlaged or not, and do what needs to be done. If the resident CEOs of those companies had made the right decisions, they wouldn’t have reached a crisis point in having to go to Bain in the first place. In any case, such situations require extraordinary leadership and management ability. I’ve not studied all of Romney’s history with Bain, nor do I care to. He’s been out of it for 12 or 15 years now. But I am aware of two examples where he grew businesses, which you fail to mention: Staples, and, Dominos (the later being, if I recall correctly, a company on the brink of going under). Both were great successes, and I’m sure there are many others.

    As for Romney’s personal commitment to helping people through his faith, I defer to the scripture “By their fruits you shall know them.” I’ve not seen any similar stories about Obama, and, if the “Your First Time” Obama ad out today is an indication of fruits, wow, I’m speechless. I mean this is the Office of the President we’re talking about, or has it become so devalued of late?

    The problem with Obama’s “leveling the playing field” or “giving everyone a fair shot” is that everyone already has that. I came from a poor family and went to college (BA then MBA). The opportunity, through loans, is guaranteed. Am I doing anythinig remotely connected to what I went to school for? No, but I am working and thank God for that. If you mean healthcare, I personally believe it is better to have it through employee-sponsored programs and private companies. The government should not be governing to that level of our lives, but it is. Guaranteed opportunity = a republic. Gauranteed outcomes = communism.

    Here’s a series of articles about Obama’s past. Worth a read if you’re canvassing for him. http://washingtonexaminer.com/obama

    What I don’t get, Janet, is that you speak ill of class privilege, when you are of a privileged class. If you knew what it was like to get paid and have only $100 to live on for two more weeks, I might understand your interest in having a classless society. I know what it’s like to live on $100 for two weeks, but knowing that I’ve already achieved what many in my family will never achieve (through education) gives me hope that someday I won’t have to live so lean, that I’m able to “move up” in class and wealth. I already have that shot, every American does. The only way that “class warfare” becomes an issue is when the idea or expectation of being entitled to more comes into play. Life doesn’t owe anyone anything. You make of it what you can. And even prejudice isn’t an excuse – I’m a middle-aged lesbian who’s been out all my life. Has that had a bearing on my success? Yes, but I’ve done my best regardless, against the odds, and I’m not complaining that some people have more than I do. The point is: it’s not right to discriminate but people do, and no government policy is going to change that. That’s guaranteeing an outcome, which people will resist.

    The Parable of Talents was a question for a teacher to explain…

    Best wishes,

    Donna

  • Donna on November 12, 2012

    I’m writing here today to apologize to the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. For the past 18 months or so I’ve not been a part of any worship service or gathering and I have no intention of returning to the seminary. Instead I’ve been growing and healing and learning in the way and ways God wishes.

    Since 2006 I’ve been writing articles and posts about the struggle for GLBT inclusion in the PC(USA) and about Rev. Edwards’ work. And I realize now that I was wrong to do so. It is not right to force a church or any organization or people to believe what it chooses not to believe, to violate what they hold holy, to corrupt what they deem sacred. And so, never being beyond correction, I ask forgiveness.

    Because it has been my experience, through prayer and God’s subsequent answer, to know that God accepts me just as I am, it’s impossible for me to recant everything I’ve ever written. I am a lesbian loved by God and always will be. However, I can renounce my loyalties, and so do. I no longer believe Rev. Edwards’ approach in this “calling” in the church or her politics (as I question above) are worthy of my support because they do indeed violate what others hold holy and corrupt what others deem sacred.

    May the church and a nation that allows all to prosper have God’s Blessings –

    Donna

  • Janet Edwards on November 13, 2012

    Dear Donna,

    I honor your sense of direction in life. To the extent that I am a Christian in the Presbyterian Church and capable of speaking for it, I forgive you.

    As far as I know myself, it has not been, nor is now, my intention “to violate what others hold holy” or “corrupt what others deem sacred.”

    What I see myself doing is expressing, as best I am able, what I believe so that others can understand, see how it flows from Jesus–as He is depicted in Scripture and Christian tradition–and, finally, respect the advocacy for LGBT people that arises from my theology.

    Please know how much I wish you well. Peace, Janet


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