Contempt and Grace

I keep watching the campaign and feeling that there is something big missing. It comes around and around for me, but last night I was reminded of it yet again as I listened to the speeches and then the Harlem Boys Choir's beautiful rendition of The Battle Hymn of the Republic. In one of the verses of that song, there is the line: "As ye deal with my contemners, So with you my grace shall deal." Think about this line. Let it swirl within you for a moment. Then sit back and you might hear the song's refrain echo in your soul, "The truth is marching on." Much of this campaign has been about both sides dealing with their perceived "contemners." At times those individuals are terrorists; others times, it is the opposing party and their supporters. There is no shortage of heated rhetoric. But what I have not seen in this campaign is much "grace" -- a sense of propriety and good will. In this campaign, I wonder how far the combatants will go to distort past facts and to obfuscate real issues? To what extent will each side demonize the other, simply to score political points and win the coveted "swing voters"? My concern is not merely reflected in Governor Schwarzenegger’s joke last night, when he tagged the Democratic convention with one of his film titles, "True Lies." No, I am concerned this morning about the utter lack of grace in this campaign. This is a more difficult test. It requires people to exercise judgment and restraint. Indeed, they must come into the campaign with an operating sense of affection for public life and people, and that affection must infuse and inform everything they do. What might this campaign look like if more grace was exercised? I believe we would have a better sense of where these candidates want to lead the nation, as opposed to them simply arguing over the past. They would talk about their genuine differences, rather than distort them. They would articulate a story of America, and let us see how it might be written. They would challenge us to think about our responsibilities as individuals and as part of something larger than ourselves. They would interpret grace to mean, in part, that they are coming to us -- not at us. Bill Bishop wrote yesterday that journalists would be well advised to move off their master narratives in their reporting so that "the new story of the nation and the world doesn't turn out to sound so much like the old." The campaigns should take Bill's advice. Then, Meredith McGehee asked, "What about wisdom and judgment" in this campaign. Yes, indeed, we need more of that. Grace doesn't cost money. It's not something a campaign needs one of those new "527" organizations to do for them under the guise of independent expenditures. One doesn't need fancy focus groups or surveys or public relations. The candidates and the people in their campaigns, for the most part, know what grace is. They would do us all a favor if they would remind themselves and remind us. After all, the truth is marching on.