Comedian, Emo Phillips defines ambiguity as “The Devil’s Volleyball;” Webster defines it as vagueness or deceptiveness, with an uncertainty of meaning or intention.

Whereas Webster’s definition may be more on point, I sense that Emo’s assessment could be more accurate. His quirky delivery often tickles my funny bone, but in this case, it also makes me think. Humor and thought provocation, a magical combination, if ever there was one.

As I write this, we’re just a few days removed from our nation’s mid-term election results and the fallout troubles me. There were so many close races, all of which were hotly contested and bitterly fought. When I browsed my Twitter feed on Wednesday morning, I thought my computer screen might burst into flames from the shear intensity of the colorfully expressed viewpoints.

None dare call this hate speech or bullying; it’s just a public arena of opposing philosophical positions doing battle openly with the help of a somewhat anonymous forum. Things were said; accusations were hurled; warning shots were being fired across bows of proverbial ships. The heat and tension was well into the rage zone. But, there’s no real damage being done here, right???

As I scrolled through the comments, barely reading a handful in passing, my thought was: these are people who might otherwise be open to sharing a beer and talking about the ramifications of the Saints’ win over the Rams on Sunday or maybe sipping a latte while romanticizing over how impressive Rami Malek was in the role of Freddie Mercury. Instead, they were banging their fingers on their keyboards (and heads against the nearest wall) over how the newly elected official will be the final straw that collapses the moral fiber of our country and destroys the American Dream.

With all due respect to Emo, I’d like to borrow his descriptive analogy and reassign it to politics, for it truly has become a playground that appears to be a fitting home for The Devil’s Volleyball.

I watched the political ads, as did you, until I was sick of having them invade my space and poison my thoughts. I threw out enough cardboard flyers to wallpaper my living room (threw them in the recycle bin, that is). With each new assault, be it video or printed mailbox fodder, I was reminded of how despicable to the core “the other guy” (or gal) actually was, behind his or her smile. Can I get an amen, if you grew weary of the toxicity?

The message has become clear, America, you are tasked with showing up for each new election, holding your nose, and voting for the lesser of two evils. Regardless who you put in the chair, according to public record and debate, they are going to do plenty of harm and very little good. That’s the perception. That’s the options. That’s the end result. That’s politics… the ball continues to get batted back and forth across the net which divides us and all of us are going to end up with sand being kicked in our faces.

Wouldn’t it be nice if our decisions were difficult for an entirely different reason? Wouldn’t it be great if we were tasked with choosing between the two candidates that all of us could hold in high esteem?

At present, our best qualifications are the educational degrees that a candidate may have acquired, the business they may have built, or the time they may have served in the military. All of those can certainly point to desirable attributes, but none of them qualify a person as a responsible leader, who puts another’s interest above their own, or will do the right thing when the right thing to do is a clear cut choice, even if the right thing to do is personally painful.

This may sound overly simplistic, but when considering a candidate, I’d really like to know what his or her first, second, or third grade teacher wrote on the back of their report card. I’d like to know how they treated the less-popular kids in middle school when no one was looking. I’d like to know if they invested any of their time in a charitable activity, without the prompting of their parents or youth leader.

I’d like to see notes of encouragement that they sent to friends who were wrestling with the challenges of early adulthood. I’d like to know if they stayed overnight at the hospital of their own accord with a sick aunt or even took the time visit on a sunny, Saturday afternoon. I’d like to know if they ever gave time to helping the homeless, feeding the hungry, or cleaning up someone else’s neighborhood after a severe storm.

It seems like the knowledge of some of those things would help me make a better choice when given that opportunity and privilege… and I do want to make a quality choice. You see, if the candidates asking for my vote didn’t do any of those things when no one was looking, how can I expect them to do those things when no one is around to hold them accountable?

I believe it was Lee Corso who said,

“You can tell a lot about a person
by how he treats those that he doesn’t need.”

There’s a lot there to unpack, but I think we’re all capable of picking up on coach Corso’s drift. Quality people are quality people when no one is looking. People who care, are going to care, whether you care if they care, or not.

In my book, HELLO… Is This On? there’s a chapter built from the backdrop of The Civil War. You may recall that Abraham Lincoln was President, but did you know that he was the first ever Republican candidate elected. Party identification aside, because neither of our present day political parties truly represent the rock from which they were hewn, Lincoln was a lightning rod and icon of division from the moment the election results were announced. You see, he won only 40% of the Popular Vote, but carried the Electoral College. Yep, it was a factor way back then and as The Civil War might imply, it was a time when our nation was being torn apart at the seams.

It was during such a time, in such an atmosphere that Lincoln stood on the hallowed ground of Gettysburg and delivered a 2-minute dedicatory speech that he felt was totally inadequate for the moment. As time has proved, it was just what the people of our country needed to be reminded of: that our nation was “conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

On the heels of that memorable opening sentence, Lincoln uttered a confession that still rings across this country as loudly as it did on November 19th, 1863…

“We are now engaged in a great civil war,
testing whether that nation, or any nation
so conceived and dedicated, can long endure.”

As I browsed my Twitter feed on Wednesday morning, that thought came to mind. Here we are 155 years later, still murdering each other over our differences, with malice in our hearts. The hot burning lead was digital in nature, but it was still doing plenty of damage. I sat. I reflected. I cried.

I love my country and I’m grateful that I’ve been able to live my life here, to enjoy the freedoms afforded me in my lifetime, but I feel we are still at war with ourselves and, in this fight, there are only losers. This truly is The Devil’s Volleyball.

On Thursday, while I was putting the finishing touches on dinner preparation, I was listening to banter from a sports show. I can’t remember the exact question that Steve Young was asked, but his response went something like this –

“I always felt like you want to be the dumbest guy in the room, because
if you have that philosophy then you’re going to get a lot of things done.
But, if you have to be the smartest guy in the room,
it’s just not going to go well over time.”

As I near the end of this blog entry, I must confess that I have no answers to propose. I’m just not that smart. My apologies. I cling only to the words penned 2000 years ago by the Apostle Paul,

“So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three;
but the greatest of these is love.”

Is love strong enough? Is love durable enough, to prevail? I can only hope and have faith that in the end, it is. Happy Saturday…

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