We Americans have such an odd relationship with political change. They say the party for which you cast your first vote is almost always the one you stay with for life. We, our chosen political party, our country — heck, the whole world — grow and change all the time. We encounter something new and sometimes we absorb it and keep going, sometimes we glance off the edge and know something’s different only through a slightly altered perception. Sometimes we bounce off it and go caroming off in an entirely new direction. And yet we register once as a Democrat or a Republican and stubbornly hold on to that identity forever.
We elect legislators once, then vote for them again and again, keeping some in office for decades. They’re dislodged only by a change in demographics within their district or by their own hand — through either retirement or scandal.
But when it comes to presidents, we can’t seem to stick with the same party for more than two cycles, no matter who’s on the ballot. That means someone, somewhere IS changing which party they vote for. Though somehow it’s never anyone you know.
Why is that? What is the push-pull that keeps us ping-ponging from one side of the ideological spectrum to the other? Why does the grass on the other side always look greener? Well for starters, it’s on the other side. We’re not close enough to see the yellow spots and bald patches.
I suppose it’s also that whatever change a new leader at the top brings is change that some people want and welcome and others find disturbing and frightening. Which, again, always seems to take at least some of those swing voters by surprise, so that when the next opportunity comes to make a change, they’re ready to swing away from what disturbs and frightens them.
In that way we do fondle our wrongs because they’re familiar. Change is good as long as it’s the other guy who has to change.
How often is the promised change sold as able to send us back to a society we think of as better? That certainly was the case in the last election. Trump sold the country on making America great again but left each voter to imagine for him- or herself what that greatness was.
That can certainly work during a campaign, but letting people drift into their own bubbles makes it that much harder to unify and lead them after the election.
As this congregation faces a change in leadership we have several things going for us that the country as a whole doesn’t have. Our main advantage is that we share values, with both each other and Vanessa. That is, of course, one of the things you can count on in an intentional community. It’s usually the community’s raison d’etre. But it’s in times of change that those shared values become most important as that’s what holds us together to prepare for and join with a new leader when she shows up.
And the last eight years or so have also taught us – or me, anyway – that it’s the community, my fellow congregants, who are our real strength and my real reason for remaining here. John certainly helped us shape that interdependence/develop structures and a foundation for letting ourselves share our values with each other and our society.
We always look to a new president – at least the ones we’ve voted for – to sweep in and set us moving in the right direction. I hope that strength our congregation has achieved will help lift some of the burden of expectation off of our new minister and spread it around, so that as we move forward, we’re all engines.