In an interesting convergence of calendars, today happens to be both Super Tuesday and Fat Tuesday. Super Tuesday, of course, is the day that the largest number of states hold presidential primaries or caucuses. Fat Tuesday (better known as Mardi Gras in French) has traditionally been a day of self-indulgence prior to the abstention that comes with Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent. (It's also known as Pancake Day in some places, as pancakes were a convenient way to use up perishable ingredients before Lent.)
While I've been as interested in following the races as anybody, I also really hope that the candidates will have settled out somewhat after Super Tuesday. I'm already getting tired of the electioneering, especially when I hear about how much money is spent on advertising. An Associated Press news story reports, "Sens. Clinton and Obama each poured more than $1 million a day into TV ads in the last week alone; Clinton buying an hour on the Hallmark Channel for a town hall meeting on Monday night, Obama seeing some $250,000 disappear in 30 seconds in his Super Bowl ad a day earlier."
Yikes. That's $8333.33 a second. So if someone contributed $50 to the campaign, that $50 would have bought a mere 1/167th of a second of a Super Bowl ad. I understand that money and advertising are necessary components to elections, but it all seems so ephemeral. Some estimate that the candidates are going to spend a combined half billion or more this election season. Which feels like typical American overblownness - a lot of other countries have much shorter election seasons and spend far less money.
Wouldn't it be nice if the candidates declared a cease fire for Lent and stopped spending money on commercials? Wouldn't it be great if the candidates used that money elsewhere, to actually accomplish some of the things they've been talking about, in terms of reducing poverty, providing international aid and development, covering health care costs and improving education? A half billion might be a drop in the bucket compared to the multi-trillion national budget, but still, that could accomplish a lot more concrete, tangible good than TV commercials that will disappear like vapor.
At any rate, I think it would be interesting if Christians gave up following the election for Lent. I'm not saying that Christians shouldn't be involved in politics - far from it. But for some of us, reading election news can be an unhealthy addiction that sucks up way too much time. And Lent gives us an opportunity to say no and let go of the need to keep up with every detail of the campaign.
Of course, all of us need to discern for ourselves what we most need to let go of this Lent. I think I need to give up Scrabulous and reserving new items at the library and actually read some of the stacks of books already on my shelves. (I'm not quite ready to give up Facebook, though. Maybe next year.)