Monday, October 8, 2012

What Happens When Republicans Go Camping

Even though our annual camping trip took place at the end of August, here in the beginning of October I am still pondering my experiences. My next three blogs or so will likely be inspirations from the campground, where I had no technology to blog them in real time. 

The second night we spent in Big Sur State Campground, the usual peace of our river-side site was disturbed. A couple of campers (I'd place them at age 50 or thereabouts) were walking by with their Golden Retriever, when the Labrador puppy belonging to the single woman in the site next door came charging out toward them.

There's no other way to say it. The couple with the big Golden freaked out. They started screaming that dogs in the camp site have to be on a leash AT ALL TIMES. The single camper immediately went to get the leash but the couple kept yelling. Even as she walked up and tried to get the dog they were still yelling. The puppy had no idea what was going on and went running around in circles, so wound up by the commotion that the lady couldn't catch him. 

At this point, the single woman began dropping f-bombs, both verbally and with gestures. The rest of the campground looked on. When the man with the Golden grabbed her arm and she turned and hit him with a martial arts move (just as my kids started back from the bathroom), I decided it was time to intervene. My adrenaline was up, but I think I said something like, "Let's just stop yelling at her long enough that she can actually catch her puppy." This she did, and they walked off, shouting all the way that they would report her and she would be evicted by the next morning. 

It was getting pretty real in the Big Sur Campground. 

 Let me pause for a moment to say I fully support the California leash law, and her puppy should have been on a leash. On the other hand, her dog was half the size of the Golden Retriever and clearly not a threat to anyone. The urgency they clearly felt at restraining the animal seemed excessive to me. On the other hand, I stand against f-bombs in public. But that is not the point of my story.

About 30 minutes later I went to check on our neighbor, because no matter what infraction you have committed it is not pleasant to be publicly shouted at or to have a strange man grab you by the arm. After apologizing for swearing in front of my daughters and telling me that she has a black belt in judo, she said, "I probably shouldn't say this, but THIS is what happens when Republicans go camping. I can't WAIT to vote in November." 

I immediately walked down the road to my friend Lorene's campsite (Lorene shall have a blog dedicated to her in very near future) and told her the story. We laughed our heads off about that comment and I am still laughing. What in the world does being strict about leash laws and hot headed when confronted with a rogue puppy have to do with being a Republican? And what about being a Republican makes one ill-suited to camping? 

I asked this last question of Lorene and she started to chose her words carefully as she assured me that she thinks Jeff and I are very fine campers though we are both Republicans. This was even funnier to me, because neither of us are Republicans. But Lorene, knowing we are Christians, assumed that we were. 

I realize I am getting into a dangerous area here because this blog isn't nor shall it ever be a place where I voice political beliefs. But I shall share my belief about politics: I have no faith in party politics at all. 

I believe the political party labels we give ourselves and others cause us to make a lot of assumptions. We assume that because we know what party someone is registered under that we know all kinds of things about them that we don't actually know.  We make assumptions about their education, their wealth, their religion. We might even make assumptions about what kinds of vacations they should take and how they respond to leash law infractions. 

And I think, most importantly, we assume motives for the way they vote, and we may be totally wrong. There are a lot of people who hold what they would say are the same moral values, but also have different ideas about how government should or should not be involved in their values.

At the church I attend, the staff policy is to never make political statements or take political stances in any of our church groups or worship services. We pray for upcoming elections, and ask for God's will to be done in our nation, and specifically we mean: we pray for peace, for justice, for the end of oppression against the powerless, for the welfare of children, for the safety of the innocent in our nation and around the world.

Back to the black belt with the puppy problem: what possible way could her November ballot help to bring about rationality, peace and kindness in interpersonal relationships? I'd vote for that bill or that candidate for sure, but I haven't seen one yet.  I have little faith in government to accomplish what matters (though I do vote in every election according to my conscience and I do value this wonderful country in which we live), but at the risk of sounding like a 60s song, what I do believe in is love on the ground level. In individuals making choices in their communities that promote justice tempered with compassion, in giving a voice to the voiceless, and in protecting people who can't protect themselves. 

I see people on all sides of the political spectrum making those kids of choices in their everyday lives. Those people are welcome in the campground next to me any time. Just as long as they keep their dog on a leash.

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