By: Woodrow Odom Lucas
As a progressive democrat with bordering on Socialist allegiances I saw this year’s election as one of utmost importance. Affordable access to healthcare, a likely Supreme Court seat, and the war in Afghanistan were just a few of the major policy issues that were at stake. For the past 3 months I have been praying every day for Barack Obama to win the presidency and for democrats to take control in the Senate and the House of Representatives. This was unusual for me, for normally I would have prayed a general prayer like, “Lord God, please bless the candidate who is best for our country to win this election,” but this election was so important to me that I deviated from proper prayer protocol and asked for a specific result.
As a person who has been diagnosed with Schizoaffective Disorder politics is a very dangerous road. Given the capricious nature of politics in general, having definite allegiances to candidates just increases the stress on one’s psyche. So needless to say, I have been very stressed out in recent weeks over the developments of the election. In addition to praying about the outcome, I would say mantras to myself over and over again. I would chant, “No matter who wins this election, I and my family are going to be alright. No matter who wins this election, the sun will still rise and the night will still come. No matter who wins this election, Jesus is still on the throne.” But deep down, I believe that I may have invested just a little too much of my soul in this year’s contest. I believe that I may have invested a bit too much, because with the exception of the elation that I felt on Tuesday night when the election was called, I have been experiencing acute depression in the days which followed.
Depression is a very mysterious experience. For those of us that suffer from severe and persistent mental illness, depression can come upon us without warning and can seem to have no apparent cause. But in this instance, I believe that my depression may have stemmed from a fundamental confusion concerning my relationship with God. As an African-American politics is very important to my welfare. Most of the strides toward African-Americans having equal rights in our society have come about as a result of political activism. From the voting rights acts of 1964-1965 to the desegregation of public schools and public places, to the end of slavery, to equal access to employment, African-Americans have utilized the tools of civic protest and political engagement to fight for our rights. This legacy is in stark contrast to for instance the legacy of Native-Americans in this country for whom political activism has been less fruitful in securing national rights for Indians and Indian Nations. But perhaps the lack of success of Native-Americans in the political spectrum might produce a better attitude among Natives when historic elections such as this past election arise.
It seems that during this election, despite my mantras to the contrary, I explicitly connected my welfare as a person directly to the outcome of this past political contest. The truth is that for me, God is the center of my existence and my strength flows from my ability to rely upon God as a source of sustenance. Unlike some other people, I cannot count on my moods to be stable or my mind to accurately assess reality at all times. Rather, I rely on medications and fervent prayer and seeking god as a way to fulfill my duties as a father, husband, citizen, and servant of Christ. And unfortunately, medication while useful in helping me avoid catastrophic happenings such as a psychotic break, rarely works to stabilize my mood or keep me from social paranoia and agoraphobia. No instead of my meds, it is the 45 minute prayer regimens that I pray on a daily basis that keep me focused and productive. For me, as a person that lives with severe and persistent mental illness, God is often literally and explicitly the difference between death and life, darkness and light, and depression and stability. I realize that philosophically, this is true for all people, but for me, my dependence on God manifests in my life as a much more visceral reality given my challenges.
So, in this election, I sacrificed my usual center of God, for the external reality of the election. I dovetailed all of my hopes and dreams into the election outcome. Unfortunately, politics, while important for a variety of reasons rarely directly informs or dictates my spiritual, physical, mental, emotional, and circumstantial welfare. I readily admit and assert that my life would be different if I did not have Barack Obama’s healthcare stipulations on my side as I deal with chronic illnesses like Schizoaffective, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, but in terms of my level of hope, my level of functionality, and my level of mental stability, politics is for the most part not a pertinent variable.
So in this election cycle, I made the mistake of relinquishing my karma yoga attitude about life and putting all of my existential eggs into the election basket. The problem with this approach is that it creates somewhat of a psychic catch 22, in which if one does not obtain one’s desired outcome one might be devastated and if one does receive one’s desired outcome one must then contend with the reality that such an outcome pales in comparison to the Universal Source of God as a cause for our well being. Today, I really tried to regain my center by reminding myself that I am in the same species as I am sure discouraged Republicans and that I need to pray for their adjustment to the political reality that emerged. Today, I attempted to regain my center by recommitting my allegiance to God more so than a political ideology. I am not trying to suggest that voting is not part of our civic duty, that advocating for justice is not part of righteousness, or that we should all put our heads in the sand and wait for God to solve all of our problems without our active struggle and participation. But I am suggesting that as we advocate and that as we fulfill our duty as citizens in a democracy to pursue the end that we have decided to be best for the country, that we need to realize that God is ultimately our source of strength and happiness more so than any circumstance that we experience or political reality that we desire.
So, as I pull myself out of the post-election blues, I am sober in my understanding that God is and must be my center and that I need to revisit my duty as a Christian to love other Christians and other citizens of this country who do not agree with my vision for a better America. As I pull myself out of the post-election blues I am sober in my remembrance that this world is not my ultimate home and that I advocate for justice out of my devotion to God more so than a desperate and fearful allegiance to any political outcome. So thank you God for in your infinite mercy allowing the election to unfold as it did, but more importantly thank you God for being the center of my life and the source of my ultimate joy.