My husband and I used to watch a TV show called Whose Line Is It Anyway? It was a very funny improv show hosted by Drew Carey. In one episode, after being harassed in a sketch, one of the actors referred to himself as the "lightning rod of hate" and it became a running joke for the rest of that episode. (You can do a search for "lightning rod of hate" and get a YouTube video of the show - there is some mild swearing in the clip)
The phrase has stuck in my head for years, and it came to mind last Wednesday as I was reading election results and reactions to the election on Facebook. It struck me (pardon the pun) that the President - whoever happens to be in the office - is often the lightning rod of hate for our country.
When people struggle, the President often takes the blame - especially in an election year. When I hear from some folks who are having a rough time, the only person some seem to see at fault is the President, even though there are many levels of government between them and the President that could also be contributing to their circumstances.
Some of my students were doing mock elections and debates and were trying to convince me to vote for them. One conversation went like this:
Student: Who would you vote for for president - (names) or (names)?
Me: I don't know - what do you stand for?
Me: That doesn't work for me - I'm an Independent. I need specifics. What's your take on the issues? What do you stand for?
Student: I'll get you more pay for your job
Me: The President has no role in what I am paid at this school. Try again.
Student: I'll get you $1000.
Me: Where's it going to come from? How are you going to pay for it?
Granted, this was a conversation with a student rather than with an adult, but the students didn't quite seem to grasp what authority the President has over the things they thought mattered in the election.
I imagine the job of President must feel like wearing a target every moment of every day. While it is the pinnacle of political power in our country, the checks and balances limit how much the President can do on his own. So you get the title - and the target - but not always the actual power everyone perceives in the role.
And we see it time and time again, no matter which party is in power. It's almost like we forget for a moment that we are not electing a Savior. We already have one. We are electing a flawed human being - just like us. We are trusting this individual to surround him or herself with honest advisers who act with integrity rather than self-interest. We are trusting all of our elected official to put our needs over their own, and to work with one another to steer our country into the right direction for the future. Some get it right and some get it wrong - just like us.
I hope we can get back to the spirit I saw leading up to the election - the Facebook posts that said no matter who was elected, God was still on the throne, the idea that we are called to pray for those God places in leadership positions over us. Think about the responsibility they shoulder. Think of the accountability they will be held to. And then pray.