Sunday, October 30, 2016

I Got Angry at Mass Today

Raise your hand if you are beyond worn out and fatigued with the farce that is this election cycle. (Both hands HIGH, over here.) I just don't even know what to say right now. I don't know how to discern the truth of the various claims anymore. Let me tell you this, though. This election has yielded some interesting insights for me personally. Things I have never noticed quite this much. It's like everything being stretched out to such an exaggerated point of ridiculousness has made it so that I can see some things about myself and my thought processes that I was unable to see before. And I am grateful for that. It is also part of the reason that I got angry at Mass today.

This election is the first time that I have been able to agree in many ways with almost EVERYone to at least some degree when it comes to politics. I could find some common ground most of the time when it was brought up. Sure, it was mostly because we were agreeing about how terrible the options were, but it was kind of nice not to feel like there was "my side" and "their side". Now, what we were all choosing to do about that was different, and I certainly didn't go in depth with that, but it led to some interesting conversations and to me being in a different place to hear it than I have been at other times.

This it the first time that my political affiliations (or lack thereof) have come to have a much greater meaning in my life. I have not registered with a party for years, because I couldn't truly stand behind either one. Because of my background, I identified more strongly with one than the other, but now I reject both of them with about equal fervor!

This is the first election in my life that I voted FOR someone. That was weird. Yes, I know all the arguments about third party votes. When considering things from all angles, it felt like the only option that I could make in good conscience. That does not mean that everyone should make that decision. This is truly a vote where you need to educate yourself about what is important (and from a Catholic standpoint, that means informing your conscience about what the Church teaches and why), and make the best decision you can. To me, there is no obvious choice this year. I could see the argument from a number of different directions, and none of them end up with us in a great spot. I know that my decision was made with a lot of thought, with prayer, and with peace that I did what I had to do. I do not say this with a relativistic mindset. There IS right and wrong, but since none of us know how all of this is going to turn out, I don't think that you can argue that there is only one choice.

I feel like this has been instructive about history. I always wondered how Hitler and the like got elected into office. I feel like I'm watching it happen. Stir up fear, stir up anger, get people beyond the point of seeing reason. (You want to know which candidate I'm referring to? In this climate, it really doesn't matter. I would say both.)

I feel on the outside. I disagree so completely with supporters of either major party candidate.* But the outside looking in can also be very instructive.  Do you realize how much both groups sound alike? You could just about switch the names interchangeably, and I'm pretty sure you wouldn't be able to tell the difference. Bullying, corruption, wrongdoing seem to be rampant. It's not just the candidates, it's ALL OF US. We are doing it to each other right now!

One of the weird things is that I finally saw some of the arguments against what I believe... And realized they were right. Not that I think their answers to the problem are right, but that they're completely correct in they're criticisms of my way of seeing certain things. Let's take the pro-life issue. To me, that is always the most important one. In no way am I trying to argue that we need to lessen our work to protect the most innocent and most vulnerable. However, in the exaggeration of seeing someone who claims to be pro life, but is so disrespectful of the lives of anyone outside themselves, I am offended when someone tries to say that behavior is pro life. That is the epitome of being anti-abortion only. Now, I will take someone that is anti-abotion over someone that is pro-abortion and also devalues certain other lives, but don't call it pro-life! It is decidedly not!

This is probably what made me angry at Mass today. We call ourselves pro-life, and yet the deacon was telling us how we convince women that it was not just a clump of cells or tissue. That's right, as far as it goes, but it doesn't go nearly far enough. If we are truly pro-life, we have to find a way to help support that woman; her life, the life of her child. If we truly value life, we need to care about her and not assume that she is simply selfishly trying to rid herself of a mess that she got herself into. You want my opinion? (Probably not, but I'm not forcing you to read this post!) I think that there are so many complex factors that go into these decisions. Yes, some of it is certainly selfishness and a lack of understanding that that baby really is a person. But I also think that some of those rationalizations resonate so well with people because they really don't feel they have any options. They feel they are doing what they must, so those rationalizations help them make a decision. I'm not saying that's right. It's not. I'm saying that there are deeper issues going on. I feel that pro choice folks are misaddressing the issue by saying that abortion is okay. I feel that people that are pro life are sometimes simply ignoring that part of the issue.

Please keep in mind, there are lots of people that are truly pro-life in every sense. They have been working tirelessly both to do the needed education that the child IS a child, but also trying to help and support the mother and support life in all its phases. But I think that it has helped me take an even closer look at the fact that I myself have probably mostly only performed actions that are anti-abortion. It has made me look at the fact that while voting is important, what else am I actually doing to respect life in the best way that I can?

Sorry for the long, rambling post. Just know that if you have taken the time to educate yourself, tried in some way to cut through the thick biases in all directions, have voted or will vote, whatever that vote is, I respect you and I respect you trying to make the best of this situation. If you have not yet voted, I would say, do not be afraid! This is what JPII taught us, and he came from a regime of political repression unlike anything we have known (at least not yet). Voting is important. But no matter who ends up in office, it is not the president who can make America great again. Nor can the president make us stronger together. If we want to be strong together, WE have to stop bullying each other. If we want our country to be great again, WE have to have the courage to look at what we are doing as individuals that is not supporting that and move forward from there. Yes, I know there are a lot of things that stand in the way. Yes, some of it will have to come down from the government. But the government can't fix it. Until we are willing to see each other as people, equals deserving of respect, even those that disagree with us (and all "sides" tend to only listen to their own people and not others, so no need to point fingers), then this problem will continue. I'm not suggesting that we start to be relativistic. That has not helped us at all. I'm saying that when I take the time to listen, I usually hear some truth in the passionate voices all around. It may be obscured by emotion, it may not turn into a useful or appropriate direction, but until we can hear the good and realize that most people really do want what's best,** we are not going to stop trying to destroy each other and in the process, destroy our country.

Okay, that's enough rambling and enough politics. I am not naive enough to think that there are easy answers to any of this and that we don't have a long hard road, regardless of what happens. What I am saying is, I don't see any improvement unless we start to change how we interact with the problem. And by "we", I mean primarily "me".

*This is not the same as the people that feel that they have to make the impossible choice of one or the other, but actually support neither.
**I do believe that a lot of people do want what's best, even though there is a lot of error out there. Consider someone treating an illness with bloodletting back in the day. They truly wanted to help cure the person, even though they may have been killing them in the process. Unfortunately, I think we sometimes have the tendency to go around trying to spend all our time educating bloodletting is wrong, without recognizing or addressing the actual illness and pain that led to the treatment. Someone who is desperate will turn to whatever might be available, if no one else is offering any other options. I want to keep strongly opposing the bloodletting AND start to find other answers and solutions for people, rather than saying "bloodletting will kill you, but good luck with that fever."

Okay, seriously, if you made it this far, thank you for the attention. Not sure this rambling deserved it, but know that I appreciate you!!