Let's Think Outside the American Box - A TCK's Approach to Politics
I have been deliberating on this post for quite some time, not wanting to add another article to the political clutter invading the media world these days. I almost left the word "politics" out of the title, so no one rolls their eyes thinking, "really, you too?" But, I hope that no matter where you sit on the political spectrum, this will be refreshing and, more importantly, will challenge you to think outside the American box. When I talk to parents of TCKs, I emphasize the benefits of being a TCK; for example, growing up in a different culture yields a unique perspective and a broad worldview. I was recently talking with a mom of TCKs and was asked, "Do you think that being a TCK impacts the way you look at politics?" Without a second thought I answered, "Absolutely."
In talking with other TCKs about how and why our experience impacts our political perspective, I was surprised to find that while our views vary widely, there are specific similarities that influence those views that are worth exploring.
We see faces. Topics of refugees, immigration, and travel bans come up and we see faces. One TCK told me that she cried when she heard that Libya was on the travel ban list because that may directly impact close friends of hers. Another TCK knew people who were stranded at the airport entirely unsure of their future. We don't see them as impersonal populations we see them as part of our multicultural family. While we may have varying opinions on political solutions, the role of the government, or our role as Christians or American passport holders, our perspective is shaped by the fact that we don't live with an "us" vs. "them" mentality. Those people are friends, or are like our friends, and the solutions change significantly when instead of seeing intimidating, different, unknown, unapproachable people groups, you see familiar faces.
We know what it's like to be the foreigner. We have lived in countries where we were the minority. We understand what it is like to be discriminated against and exploited because of our race and skin color, and that directly impacts the way we interact with the minority populations in this country. We also know what it is like to be accepted into a culture despite our skin color, passport, and race. We remember the times when someone took the time to help us with language or showed us how to navigate the market or post office. As foreigners, we were accountable to integrate and respect the culture we were in, and were overjoyed when, though we were foreigners, we were treated like insiders. I desire to treat foreigners in America with the respect, dignity, generosity, and love that many extended to me when I lived in Africa.
We value different perspectives. Many Americans seem to have a false illusion that we are the "bees knees" at pretty much everything and thus, we rarely look outside our borders for political brilliance. We can learn so much from other countries around the world and it would do America good to humbly seek wisdom and counsel from political leaders all over the world. For this reason, I believe we would do well to put more TCKs in political offices!
We cling to our eternal citizenship, rather than our temporal status. For a long time, I struggled with the fact that I didn't seem to belong anywhere. I held an American passport, but felt like a foreigner in America, yet I felt most comfortable in Tanzania where I neither looked like I belonged nor legally was anything more than a temporary resident. I vividly remember a day during my Sophomore year in high school when I read Philippians 3:20: "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ." I finally found a sense of belonging.
I think that TCKs have an advantage in understanding deeply the concept that our citizenship is not on this earth. Yes, I hold an American passport, and I do care about what is going on in this country, but when things aren't going well, it does not rattle my soul. I know that ultimately, this is not where I belong. I am not so deeply rooted in this country that I feel personally attacked or affirmed by political decisions, because I am striving to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” rather than worrying about the kingdoms of this world and their actions (Matthew 6:33).
If you've been feeling unsettled by the political rhetoric, unilateral decisions, and inflammatory speech that surrounds us these days, I hope you will find the same solace in these words that I have, "All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them" (Hebrews 11:13-16).