When the dust settles

Published November 10, 2022

By Lib Campbell

When the last vote is cast and the last ballot counted how will things be different? Will we at last enter a time of peace when tempers abate and words of kindness fill our mouths? All the political television ads will cease. Headlines will turn to the plans of leaders, whoever they are. Some of the plans being touted before votes are certified seem to continue the negativity and hate that we heard before the election. Makes me wonder if the dust will ever settle.

Winners often gloat. Losers often sling mud. We are so predictable in our binary world, the old I-Thou relived in every generation. Some like Apollos; some like Paul. We squabble about who is right and who is wrong, who is in and who is out, while all the time things are going on at a macro level that will impact us even as we work to sort things out. We continue to major in minors.

Already there are people disputing election outcomes, even some who might ultimately win. Seems a little disingenuous to run with great confidence, while at the same time casting doubt on the whole process. The dust will not settle until the dust that we are finds a healthier center. The great red wave that was expected did not fully materialize. Even though a North Carolina Trumpster was elected to the Senate, even though the balance of the North Carolina Supreme Court shifted, even though the extreme gerrymandering accomplished what it was designed to do, the sun rises on a hope that the election denying will be squashed and an equilibrium might settle upon us.

It gets tiresome being awash in disinformation, false equivalencies, untruth. Those on other shores who wish us harm must love the dustups we live in. What can happen to settle the waters of our political discourse? What will help the dust within and the dust without calm down?

I think the interior turmoil of mean-spiritedness must be hard to live. It not only robs peace and rots our souls, it spills out of us tainting everything in its path. It’s one thing to be mean in the world; it’s quite another to live with the stink inside.

It’s hard to believe that unless there are people intent in overthrowing all that is America, anybody would continue the vitriol, even when they win. The dust will not settle if a governing principle is revenge and retribution. Disruption and chaos will rule the day to the glee of our enemies who wish us harm.

On All Saints Day, our pastor preached from the Sermon on the Plain in Luke 6. It’s Luke’s telling of the Beatitudes, outlining blessings and woes. When looking at this text with a non-binary eye, we can see ourselves in both the blessing and the woe; this is an expression of the human condition. Boils down to a both/and, not an either/or. The pastor told the story of going to a spiritual director to ask how one learns to live the blessing? How does one hope to minimize the woe? The spiritual director replied, “I try not to add to the pain of the world.”

One simple commitment to not adding to the pain would do a lot to settle the dust. So what would that look like lived out among us? Mouths full of kindness? Mercy offered to all? What if we saw our sisters and brothers and accepted them just as they are? What would we lose if we simply chose not to add to the pain of the world? What if, as elected officials, we worked to serve all constituents, regardless of whether they voted for us or not?

It’s a cheap shot for somebody like me to over-simplify such a shift in behaviors. I have my own interior dust to deal with. But I think all of us could do a little housekeeping to see what small steps might lead us toward the healing of the world. Life is fragile and short. From dust we came, to dust we shall return. We know that. Why would we waste this one precious life adding to the pain of the world when we could stop it this very minute?

I am aware that it will likely be a few days, maybe weeks, before the dust of the election settles. May good come of what happens and not evil. May the hopeful spirit of the people be met in elected officials as they seek good for all. May it be so.

Lib Campbell is a retired Methodist Pastor, retreat leader and columnist who blogs at www.avirtualchurch.com. You may contact her at libcam05@gmail.com