OPINION: There's more at stake in this November election than Candidate A versus Candidate B.

It's hard to ignore the endless stream of bad news that keeps coming our way regularly. Sometimes it is so overwhelming that it is difficult to find one's sense of balance and footing. Over time, it takes a toll.

It's understandable that in the midst of it all we can lose track of our moral compass and begin to accept the unacceptable as if it is normal. But we do so at our own peril.

It's not just the pandemic, as terrible as that is. It's also the ongoing murder of Black fellow citizens at the hands of police, the racism expressed in a multitude of ways throughout our country, and the ongoing unrest in the streets that still hasn't led to justice and significant social change that causes one to become discouraged.

What does it mean that 200,000 people in our country have died in a matter of months, yet we still don't have a coherent national plan to address this situation? What does it tell us about ourselves that it has taken too many deaths within the Black community to finally see the pervasiveness of our institutional racism? Have we lost our ability to care, figure things out, and work together to create a better world?

Then there are the wildfires, floods, and hurricanes that wreck their own kind of havoc. And, if that weren't enough, we see the passing of great souls in our midst, such as John Lewis and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose lives represented the essence of equality and human rights. Who will become our future champions for justice?

These dramatic events are regularly interspersed with a stream of tweets and public diatribes that insult our sensibilities about caring human behavior and scorch our souls with small spiritedness, self-centeredness, lies, and hostility toward others.

When you look around for genuine leadership, integrity, kindness and compassion, all too often you get a dose of the Seven Deadly Sins instead — pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony and sloth. And if you pay attention to the most recent polls regarding politics, it appears that these disturbing trends aren't seen as a real danger to the soul of who we are as a people. It's as if such behaviors have become accepted as normal.

What has happened to our moral compass? Something isn't right, and it has made its way into the heart of who we are as people.

Now mind you, there are positive signs around to inspire us as well. After all, countless doctors, nurses, service workers, cashiers, meatpacking laborers, firefighters, agricultural workers and other ordinary folks have risked their lives, sometimes beyond belief, to help the rest of us function with some semblance of normalcy.

You don't have to look far to see stories of bravery, risk, and self-sacrifice sprinkled throughout the news, which still demonstrates that love overcomes hate, courage inspires, and helping others has a profound impact on the character of a society.

But in these highly politicized times, it's more than politics that keeps me awake at night. I'm as concerned about what the current news reveals about the nature of our humanity as well.

When Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away recently, many political leaders callously sought political advantage within hours of her death, even before she'd been honored properly and laid to rest. In many societies such actions would be seen as uncivilized, unconscionable, and disrespectful.

When the wounds of centuries of racism surfaced again, metastasizing throughout the land, why can't we muster the political will to denounce these activities at the highest level of government, overcome our ancient ghosts and counter such ugly behaviors?

When scientific evidence demonstrates that wearing masks will save lives, too many people hold mask-less gatherings and falsely claim that the whole thing is a hoax. Really? If this is so, then why are there so many graves being dug across the nation?

Is this the best we can do? As human beings, aren't we capable of something more? What do such things tell us about the state of our collective soul?

Politics is clearly center stage as Nov. 3 approaches, but it's not just the candidates and issues that appear on the ballot.

Who are we as a people, and who do we want to become? Will there be room in our world for those who are different from us? Will they be treated with the same kindness, respect, and compassion that we long for ourselves?

Something fundamental is at stake in November. In fact, maybe it's not just the candidates who are on the ballot this fall. Maybe we ourselves are as well — and our votes will ultimately determine who we become as a people.

Lowell Greathouse is a retired United Methodist minister who served local churches in Beaverton, Lake Oswego and Portland. He previously worked for United Way of the Columbia-Willamette and Community Action in Washington County. He lives in Forest Grove.

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