Post-Obama Victory: Forgiveness

| 11/5/2008 10:52:51 AM

Shaking HandsThere has been a lot to repent for throughout this election. Both Republicans and Democrats have viciously attacked each other over the past few months (or years) in pursuit of a single goal: electoral victory. Now that Barack Obama’s victory has been decided, it’s time for a little forgiveness. 

It wasn’t always this nasty. Gil Troy writes for the Wilson Quarterly that “our political ancestors often approached the political game in better humor and with a closer attachment to political life.” Today’s “media politics,” by contrast, engender partisan bickering and division for the sake of a compelling storyline. In their attempts to motivate the electorate, politicians end up distancing themselves from voters. The effect is that  political parties today are approached with the same zeal as a pro-sports team, according to Troy, with all the intensity and vitriol, but little participation from the fans.

Evidence of this nastiness was on full display throughout campaign 2008. Many on the left focused on the hate-filled videos from outside of McCain-Palin rallies, but the Democrats released their share of attack advertisements, too. Watching television in battle-ground states over the past few weeks has been an exercise in muck-wallowing, with a constant stream of attack ads and over-the-top accusations coming from both sides.

The reality is that revenge serves an evolutionary purpose, psychologist Michael McCullough told In Character. When an animal feels wronged, revenge protects that animal’s interest and deters “harm-doers from harming us a second time.” The inclination for some may be to redress the harms of the past few months and lick the wounds inflicted throughout the campaign.

For many, however, Obama’s victory can send that same message of deterrence for the wrongs of the past eight years. On an evolutionary level, for a species to survive, animals must move beyond revenge to forgiveness.

Jake Mohan
11/13/2008 9:41:22 AM

Michael McCullough recently appeared on Minnesota Public Radio's "Speaking of Faith" to talk more about forgiveness and the desire for revenge. You can listen to the episode here:

11/6/2008 1:24:27 PM

Thank you Bennett! To read your confirmation of what I already know and feel was just what I needed today. We are one country, one nation, one people, ONE world. Let us forgive each other, starting with ourselves, for thinking that we were ever other than that.

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