Boo! It’s October. We begin the journey into my favorite time of year: Fall, and the cascade of holidays that it brings. I love this time of year. I want to write about that. About pumpkins, decorations, my daughter’s two Halloween costumes, the corn maze I just went through. I’d like to write about Charlie Brown’s sheet costume (which I actually wore one year in college. “I had a little trouble with the scissors.” Nobody got it. Kids today, amirite?) If I’m on my game, I could segue that into a piece about the Holy Ghost. (God’s spook-tacularly underrated third person.) Doesn’t that all sound nice? Wouldn’t you like to read that? Yeah, sorry, I just can’t do it.
Yes, it’s going to be another one of those articles. I know that you’re either going to agree with me or not. If not, I’m not going to change your mind. Please read it anyway. I want to open a dialogue. I have to try. I feel like it is my Catholic duty. Can you help me understand? Please? The only way this gets better is by talking. So here’s my side.
I’ve been angry lately. Like, a lot. I get angry about many things. My job. My body. My perceived lack of success at the things I actually care about. (I love my family. I wouldn’t trade anything that got me to where I am with them for anything. But I wouldn’t mind a little upturn now that I’m there.) I get angry when I give up bad goals in hockey. I get angry when I feel like other people aren’t as dedicated to a common goal as I am. Some of these things matter a lot. Some, probably not so much. The one thing that sets me off more and more frequently, though, is our toxic political climate.
I hate conflict. I don’t even like writing this. I’ve said before, I think everyone is entitled to their opinion, and that I acknowledge that I am not always right. Still, I think those opinions should be coming from an informed place, not one of fear, hypocrisy, and cherry-picked ideology. Because why?
Why would you want to pick a side and stick with it no matter what? Nobody’s perfect. Nobody’s always right. Why wouldn’t you want to get all the information and form your own opinions? I don’t get the sports team mentality of politics. I also don’t understand how good, devout Catholics and Christians of other stripes can support the modern Republican party.
I’ve said before here that I seem to be a somewhat reluctant liberal. (I always thought of myself as fairly conservative, actually, but here we are.) Nevertheless, I don’t see why that would be a bad thing. Liberal means open minded and forward looking. I want to be that.
I think that I am a pretty intelligent person. (I accept that this is a somewhat conceited view, and you have no evidence to support this claim. Let us assume for the sake of this argument that I am.) I’m proud of that. Being smart is a plus. It is a blessing and a gift. I like being smart. I want people who are smarter than I am to run this country. Not the toughest or the most popular. The smartest. The people who can make the best, most informed decisions, even if it makes them look bad. And yet, that isn’t what we have. Quite the opposite.
I’ve tiptoed around this before because I don’t like to ruffle feathers. But I’m going all-in here. I sincerely hope it can be for the last time. Our President, the man whom many in this country elected, and continue to support, is woefully and dangerously unqualified for the office which he occupies.
Donald Trump is a charlatan. He is a compulsive liar and a staggering narcissist. He has not done one thing during his tenure in office that benefits the country at his own expense. Not one. His idea of “the common good” is the same as that of despots and dictators throughout history: namely his own. He is a bad president, but more crucially he is a bad person. And this is where this article is going to diverge from something you’d see on Huffington Post or MSNBC.
I don’t believe in small government or low taxes. I think the military is more than large enough and I think states’ rights are overrated. But I believe in discussing those things. Debate and discourse was a founding principal of our democracy. That and the first amendment. (But not the Bible. Don’t believe the hype.) My biggest problem with those on the right who consider themselves followers of Jesus was also the centerpiece of a Talk that I gave recently, and it is this:
Jesus told us that the most important thing in this whole wide world is love. Full stop. Love God and love your neighbor. No wiggle room. No caveats or qualifications. Love. And your neighbor is everyone. Not the people who look like you, or agree with you, or share a bathroom with you. Everyone. Love means respect and care. Love means putting someone else’s interests before your own. Love means acceptance.
You don’t have to like someone to love them. You don’t have to agree with them. You do have to treat them as an equal. The first amendment of our Constitution guarantees that everyone has the right to express their opinions. To be respected. The founding fathers did not build a Christian nation, but they were clearly inspired by Christian principles. (Like respecting other religions, for instance.) I think Jesus would have understood that men like Adams and Jefferson were flawed, but appreciated that they were trying to do the right thing the best way they could.
That’s where I think we’ve gone wrong. Nobody asks what the right thing is anymore. I don’t care about denying ‘the other side’ a political victory because I think it’s petty. Cutting off your nose to spite your face. I am a Catholic and an American. Those are the only sides that matter to me. I’m also a human being, and that weighs pretty heavily on the Catholic side.
So riddle me this, Batman: How can a Catholic support banning refugees fleeing from a living Hell? Are some of them terrorists? I doubt it, but it’s possible. So what? If someone wants to kill you badly enough they will find a way. My perceived safety is not more important than their lives. How can a Catholic support denying vital health care to even one person? Will it cost me a little more? Maybe, but my bank account does not outweigh someone else’s well-being. How can a Catholic tell someone else who they are allowed to love or what they are allowed to do with their bodies. Jesus died for all of us. (And don’t give me Leviticus. If you do, I will assume that you have read the whole passage and are also willing to die for clams, polyester, and bacon. Oh, you like bacon? Well then let’s go ahead and presume that Jesus invalidated the old covenants like He said He did.)
The things that I hear and read daily make me angry. I’m finding it really hard to love Republicans right now. But I’m a Catholic, so I have to try harder. We all do. Jesus told us so.
Happy Halloween. Next month I’ll tell you what I’m thankful for. I really hope one of those things will be that the healing has started.