Saying No to the Politics of Division in Michigan 41 and Everywhere

                With the 2018 General Election less than two weeks away, the ads have become ubiquitous. In some races they are becoming increasingly nasty, filled with untruths and inflammatory speech. These messages come not only in the mail and on TV and Radio, but also in the form of emails and social media messages. Many of them are designed to not only divide but suppress the vote. As I write this the FBI and other law enforcement agencies are investigating what at last count was nine pipe bombs sent to well-known Democrats and critics of the President. I've been a political junkie most of my life. I've seen angry rhetoric before, but things seem more out of hand today. I'm especially concerned about attempts to divide and conquer minority and immigrant communities from each other. I'm white and I'm male. I have a certain set of privileges that come with that status. I also know that there are many who share my characteristics who are afraid they might lose these privileges and are working to keep them at all costs. Thus, we find our selves in the midst of a firestorm.

              For the past six months or so I've been doing all that I can to help my friend, Padma Kuppa, win election to the office of State Representative in the 41st district of Michigan. I’ve known Padma for ten years, working closely with her on interfaith efforts. We’ve worked together on building bridges across religious lines. Our religious traditions are different, as is our ethnicity. We don’t always agree on matters of religion, but we have both devoted our lives to building bridges. That’s why I’ve committed significant time to supporting her candidacy. This is a difficult race because she’s running as a Democrat in a district that has been reliably Republican. She has garnered support from some Republicans, however, because of her commitment to the community. She is an engineer, as is her husband, who have worked in the auto industry. In her "spare" time, she has been a volunteer, a community leader, a committed parent. She’s willing to listen. She believes in good public schools for all students. She wants to protect our environment, and make sure the residents of Michigan have good health care. These are common values, one would think.

                This may be the year for women candidates, but she carries an added burden. She is an immigrant. She is Hindu. She has been active in supporting and defending her co-religionists. That has led in some quarters to misunderstandings. Knowing that one of the political tricks is to divide people along religious and ethnic lines, I've been concerned that this could affect the race. We've seen some evidence that this happening, so the concern is relevant. I hope it doesn't affect the outcome, but it could, especially in the current climate. 

             Although e pluribus unum is not the official national motto, it should be. We are all different. We come from different places. We may be immigrants or refugees. Our ancestors may have come here voluntarily or involuntarily (as is true of most African Americans), only those who can trace their ancestry to the peoples living here before Columbus can claim to be Native Americans. We are all different, but together we make up a rather unique country. Therefore, let's not allow a politics of division push us apart. Unity doesn't mean uniformity. It means respecting and honoring the gifts we each bring to the Table. 

                Those in the community who know me, know that I am committed to bringing people together. To quote George W. Bush when he ran for President the for the first time, I seek to be a uniter not a divider. I can say the same for Padma. We might have differences of opinion on matters of religion and other issues, but I know she will defend the rights of all persons to practice their faith in private and in public. I say this as a pastor committed to the Christian faith.

So, let’s not pursue the politics of division. Vote for her opponent if you believe he’s the best candidate, based on his positions on the issues of the day. Vote for Padma, if you believe she is the best person to represent us. Just don’t allow misrepresentations and suspicions influence your vote. As for me and my household, we support Padma, and will vote for her on November 6. Why? Because we know where she stands on the important issues of our day, here in Michigan, and especially in Troy and Clawson. We trust her to do the right thing for her constituents. That comes from working closely with her for ten years.


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