This is not a statement about Canada, which I’ve always loved visiting. I have good friends who make their home there, and they love their country as much or more than I love mine. No anti-Canada rant here. No rant at all really.
Rather, it is a response to the number of posts I’ve seen recently saying, “if ‘______’ is elected president, I’m moving to Canada!” Depending on your politics, you might be inclined to say this for a various of the candidates currently on offer.
Now I suspect that some of this is overstated hyperbole, or just a form of venting frustration with what seems a bizarre political season to many. But I also wonder if it reveals some unsettling, at least to me, suppositions about the political order.
It seems that the assumption behind statements like the one above is that if such and such is elected the nation is going to go to hell in a hand-basket. Now I will totally agree that it is not an inconsequential thing to elect a president, or any other political office holder. I grew up in a city that was more or less a one party town and often elected those beholden to organized crime. And I live in a city, that while far from perfect, has enjoyed several generations of forward looking leadership.
What troubles me in the sentiment is that I feel it puts too much stock in a single area of our public life–the political. It seems that our discourse tends to turn the politicians we like into saviors, and those we don’t into demons. It’s kind of striking to me that believers and atheists both have something in common in this discourse–they talk about politicians as supernatural, or at least as super-human figures. At very least, it seems that something is out of proportion here. A few observations:
- Under our system, political leaders derive their power from the governed. Even with the problems of campaign finance, we are still the people who put these people in office, or not.
- At every level, we operate in a system that balances power between executive, legislative, and judicial functions. It’s inefficient, but it does provide mechanisms to check the excesses of a person or group.
- I also wonder if we put too much stock in these people, perhaps in part because of the way the 24/7 news cycle distorts our view of reality. So many others are pursuing the common good, whether in starting companies, serving communities, creating works of beauty, and, of vital importance, raising the next generation.
- One of the things this points to is that what makes a country good are not simply our leaders, but an engaged citizenry that is thinking not only of our own good but the common good. This raises the all-important issue of our character as a people, as David Brooks has so helpfully done on his “Road to Character” website.
This is why I’m not planning to move to Canada, or elsewhere. There is so much I love about the city, state, and nation I live in. I will not give away my own responsibility for fostering what is best about these to the political system. Nor will I lodge my hope in any political leader, nor allow their failings to dissuade me from seeking the common good of “the land that I love.”
This post actually began in church this past Sunday. We were singing these lyrics by Chris Tomlin:
You’re the God of this city
You’re the King of these people
You’re the Lord of this nation
What is disturbing to me is that many of those I’ve heard voicing sentiments about going to Canada are people of faith, and I suspect many have sung this song at some point. What I wonder is, do they believe God will still be sovereign over our nation if the person they disdain is elected? Some may chide me for making too much of a “careless” statement. But I wonder about our “care” for our city, state, and nation if we would talk about leaving it if someone we disapprove of is elected. What are we saying about our faith in God and our love for our place?
Something to think about. . .