All Politics Is Local…

I met with an old friend of mine today for the first time in a few years. He was an old mentor of mine back in high school… since we last saw each other he’s been pretty busy– he’s served the President, lead a pretty big city chamber of commerce and even ran for political office himself. And he’s done this while at the same time staying a committed follower of Christ. Amazing.

We were chatting over coffee and got into a conversation about politics. I asked what kind of issues he’s been interested, especially in light of the different things he’s been involved with in recent years. He told me it was local issues– school shootings, homelessness, etc.

At first I was a little surprised. Here’s a guys who’s seen quite a bit of the political landscape. He’s shown Dubya around the city. He’s gotten a taste of politics on a national stage. But more than being exhilarated, he seemed more disenchanted. “Its all a game,” He told me about his experiences in politics. There are always deals done behind closed doors and everyone’s getting something from someone.

But after a while it made sense. At the end of the day, people get into politics to help people and sometimes you wonder if all the games and bureaucracy is worth the payoff which could be years away. Meanwhile, you get alderman in Chicago who can change zoning regulations, approve contracts with a wave of their finger. This can be life or death stuff, affecting neighborhood safety, jobs, housing, schools…

But following the presidential race is so SEXY. So much story, so much intrigue, so much coverage… Don’t get me wrong, I have pretty strong views on national and international issues and consider them very important. I think our foreign policy matters. I think our energy policy matters. I think what the federal government does matters. I have strong opinions on who should president.

But, at the same time, I don’t even know who my alderman is (I just found its Mary Ann Smith). I spend way too much time perusing political blogs that cover the election, the war in Georgia, our trade deficit with China… but with a story on all the budget craziness going on in the state of Illinois and the city of Chicago, I’m more likely to skim if not move on. Cuts to the Cook County hosptial? Yawn. Another school shooting? Grieve for 30 seconds and move on.

If politics is “all a game.” Then maybe people can afford to play the game when they have a stable income, secure housing and regular employment. People like me. But for most other folks, politics not a game…. its life or death.

In light of this fascinating election cycle, I consider it a reminder that while it is my civic duty to be an informed voting citizen, my duty as a Christian is to love people, care for the poor and give myself for the sake of others. I think Ariana Huffington and David Brooks can help me with the former, but for the later I’ll need Someone else.

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