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Hope in God in the Midst of Political Uncertainty

Jessica Johnson on

On Election Day, I was a little more cautious than I have been in recent years while voting. With the growing concerns about the increase in political violence throughout the country, I thought about voting absentee, something I have never done before.

I have always had a nostalgic sentiment about voting in person due to the civil rights history I learned growing up in the South. I have fond memories of the excitement I had in participating in my first presidential election as a college sophomore in 1988. Thinking about those who bravely marched with Hosea Williams and John Lewis on their first attempt from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, on March 7, 1965, known as Bloody Sunday, I knew that I had an obligation to honor their sacrifices by casting my ballot.

As an optimistic 19-year-old in '88, I wasn't worried about my physical safety going to my polling location, which was in Durham, North Carolina, and the political climate was not as toxic as it is today. I can even recall laughing at some of the political cartoons in newspapers that embellished the eyebrows of then-Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis. Unfortunately, there's hardly any room for good-natured banter in politics today.

I eventually made up my mind to vote in person for this year's midterms, and I wore one of my maroon and gold church T-shirts that says "So Loved," referencing the scripture in John 3:16. Thankfully, my experience voting in Reynoldsburg, Ohio, was pleasant as it should be for everyone at the polls, with people actually smiling and waiting patiently in line. The election workers were able to effectively do their jobs without anyone intimidating or harassing them. This has not been the case, however, in other areas around the nation. Before the midterms, there were reports of people, some armed and masked, watching ballot boxes in Arizona's Maricopa County. Other highly contested areas included jurisdictions in my home state of Georgia and the midwestern states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Much of this unrest is contributed to conspiracy theories that have exploded over the internet and social media questioning the validity of elections and asserting that they are rigged against Republicans. Such unfounded philosophies seriously threaten our democracy, as polls are revealing many Americans are worried about our political future. In many cases, this worry has intensified into anguish and more daily stress.

One survey that caught my attention regarding our political divisiveness is titled "Stress in America 2022," which was conducted by the Harris Poll and the American Psychological Association. The APA concluded that "the U.S. population has experienced an intense range of stressors over the past few years," which tell "a story of uncertainty and dissolution." Of the 3,192 adults in the Harris sample size, 68% believe that we are at "the lowest point in our nation's history," and 66% said that politics are "a significant source of stress in their lives." Racial tension was also measured, with 62% stating race relations were a cause of substantial pressure.

I believe that the uncertainty the respondents were referring to is strongly related to the fear and hatred being vented by extremist political groups. And when fear is fueled by extremist ideas, it is a catalyst for violence. A troubling result from a University of California, Davis survey revealed that 7% from a sample size of 8,620 adults admitted they were willing to murder someone to "protect American democracy." Normally, 7% to a response in a survey would be considered insignificant regarding its findings, but with the threats we have seen in the news aimed at polling stations and some of our elected officials, we can't ignore it.

We are indeed living in challenging times in America, but at the end of Election Day, I received an encouraging message from my pastor at Bible study. She simply told me and fellow congregants to hold on to the hope that God has given us and to believe in the goodness that He still sees around us. Her words echo this passage from abolitionist James Russell Lowell's "The Present Crisis," whom Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. quoted after the Selma march concluded in downtown Montgomery:

 

"And, behind the dim unknown

Standeth God within the shadow

Keeping watch above his own."

For me, faith in God and knowing that He is watching allows me to continue to have faith in the just and moral principles of our democracy prevailing. I believed this at the tender age of 19 and know it is something we are still fighting for.

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Dr. Jessica A. Johnson is a lecturer in the English department at Ohio State University's Lima campus. Email her at smojc.jj@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter: @JjSmojc. To find out more about Jessica Johnson and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Copyright 2022 Creators Syndicate, Inc.
 

 

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