It would seem the nation has fallen under that old and terrible curse.
Interesting is certainly one word for the election year in which we find ourselves. These “interesting” circumstances leave many voters at a loss. What is right to do? Who do I vote for? Do I vote at all?
Really wrestling with all the questions involved in voting responsibly is perhaps long overdue. If it is challenging to figure out maybe we’ll take it more seriously. The reality is though, that this year people of good will who have for years seen eye to eye on politics will make widely different decisions about how to cast their vote. Some will believe whole heartedly in a major party candidate. Others will dislike, perhaps even loathe a candidate, and yet vote for them all the same in hopes of stopping an evil they consider greater. Still others will choose to cast a third party vote, or even write in a candidate rather than support someone they feel they cannot. Some even argue that refusing to vote may be done as a positive political statement not simply an ommission.
I personally am spared this decision by my lack of citizenship. I am married to an American serviceman. I raise little American babies. I love this nation and everything it has given to me in my time here. But I don’t have to choose because I cannot vote. So it is from the strange inside/outside position of the legal permanent resident that I observe with sadness the fracturing of opinion and the increasingly angry rhetoric amongst my friends and co-religionists. And it is from this perspective that I wish to urge one thing.
Be gentle with each other. Be gentle with yourselves. We all probably have had friends on the opposite side of the political spectrum in the past. Sometimes our patience with them is tested in an election year. Yet because we believe in the American experiment, and care for each other we find a way to get along. But this year will be a different challenge. This year, those long considered political allies will fundamentally disagree with us. This may be harder to bear. It may feel like a betrayal. In some cases, it may even be one. There will be plenty of disillusionment to go around.
For the most part though, what we will find is good hearted, serious minded, God fearing men and women struggling to determine what their consciences demand and will allow. They may be confused, angry, despairing. And at the end of the day they may choose differently than you. And they may be wrong. But we need to find a way to respect and love each other through this. By all means spend now to November arguing for your point of view and trying to win over others to what you sincerely think is best for the nation! By all means reserve a decision until it is time to cast your ballot. But somehow don’t let anger enter between friends.
I live in a house with a proud American who has put his life on the line for love of country. We have spent long hours hashing out the issues of this election cycle and we haven’t completely agreed yet. Oh the hours we’ve burned debating! The many more I’m sure we will spend this summer and fall! In November that man will go out to the ballot alone and do what he thinks is right and I may hate it. I could say this about many family and friends. But I won’t hate them. Because they will still be the people I’ve known for the last 15 years who have found themselves making a tough call in a confusing year. I know they will have researched, prayed, considered and done the best they could.
In the end you are so lucky to have a vote. You are lucky to have the horrible burden of deciding what to do with it, or even if you can find a way to use it this year. Voting is a voicing of our freedom. And that particular freedom springs from the fundamental freedom, freedom of conscience. In the words of Gaudium et Spes, quoted by the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Conscience is man’s most secret core, and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths.” In the end no man can tell another what his conscience demands and a man must do what his conscience dictates no matter what his friends may think. Let us acknowledge this terrible responsibility with charity for each other.