Weighing the Politics of Death and Destruction

I can’t quite decide how I feel about one of the major themes of this year’s presidential election: Death and Destruction. That is, “Our country has been/is being/will be destroyed and we’re all going to DIE.”

Yes, that’s hyperbolic, but is it far off base?

Donald Trump’s rise was fueled to a large degree by people who think that President Obama or liberal politicians or establishment politicians in general have been running our country into the ground. In their telling, the great country we once knew is either dead and gone or on its way to becoming so.

On the other side of it, many Americans worry (and I confess to indulging in such worries myself) that Trump’s election could trigger the very destruction that his supporters see as already in motion.

Oh, and some of us are Very, Very worried that we’ll die at the hands of violent Islamic terrorists. Or violent criminals – especially the immigrant sort. Others of us are Very, Very worried that we’ll die at the hands of NRA-card-carrying, gun-toting fanatics.

Read the rest at the Catholic Review.

The Space Between - Weighing the Politics of Death and Destruction

Let’s Not Tell Ourselves That None Of This Matters

Last week I saw a meme on Facebook that said something to the effect of: The day after the election, your kids will still be your kids, your home will still be your home, the sun will still shine, and butterflies will still flit about fancifully.

Or something like that. I don’t remember who posted it, so I can’t find it to validate the accuracy of my impression. In any case, the meme was telling us, “Don’t worry; none of this matters anyway.”

To which my inner lobbyist was shouting, “No! This does matter! Elections have consequences! Governments do real things! And you have more power over them than you realize!”

I understand where the meme’s creator and the multitudes who share it are coming from. This election has shaken people. Ideologies are in flux, loyalties are shifting, and opinions that were once shushed are now voiced aloud. Some find the situation thrilling. Many find it disturbing.

For the latter camp, it’s tempting to treat this campaign, and indeed politics overall, as a television show that can be turned off. It’s a topic to be weeded out of a newsfeed, a fad to be ignored, something as disconnected from our real lives as Justin Bieber and the Kardashians.

Except it’s not.

The Space Between -- Let's Not Tell Ourselves That None Of This Matters

Arguing Well on Facebook – Even About Politics

Well, friends, we are deep into that most wonderful of seasons, aren’t we? Election season. And we know what that means: half of our Facebook friends are volunteering their political opinions to the world while the other half are signing off until mid-November.

I kid a little, of course. It’s not as clear as all that. While some people are vociferous in their political opinions, others are completely mum on the subject. Some are cranky, some (few this year, it seems) are inspired, some (many?) are despondent. Some people seem to be unable to handle the heat and so have decided to get out of the kitchen. Some argue their points well; others have little to show for their efforts but annoyed or offended friends and family.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s okay for someone to be annoyed with me because they don’t like my politics. What’s not okay is for someone to be annoyed or offended or hurt by the way I’ve discussed my political opinions with them.

So I try really hard, especially during election season, to make sure I argue my points well. Here are thirteen (what a lucky number!) ways I do that:

Read the rest at the Catholic Review.

The Space Between - Arguing Well on Facebook Even About Politics

On My Mind (Vol. 3)

—1—

I’ve been following the Democratic National Convention this week just as I did the Republican National Convention the week before. (Much to the chagrin of my little children, who find “Grownups Standing and Talking,” as we call it, infinitely more boring than Paw Patrol and The Lion Guard.)

Comparing the two conventions, I have to say that the Democrats have done a better job of the thing. “Bernie or Bust” drama aside, the Democrats’ evening programs have seemed much more solid – packed with a strategic selection of speakers who have made coherent cases for their party’s platform and nominee. (I couldn’t help but feel that the organizers of the Republican National Convention felt compelled to take whomever they could get.)

I’m curious to see what kind of a bounce the convention will generate for Clinton. I think it’ll exceed Trump’s, but pretty much every prediction I’ve made so far about Trump has been wrong, so who knows?

—2—

All that said, I’ve heard a lot at the convention that that I disagree with. (No surprise, as I’m not a Democrat.) And I’m finding the Party’s persistence in advancing abortion on its (literal) national stage to be especially frustrating.

Read the rest (including thoughts on terrorism and the martyrdom of Father Jacques Hamel) at the Catholic Review.

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On My Mind (Vol. 2)

Yesterday morning I published a new post on the new blog, but then rushed my crew off to a fun day at the Maryland Science Center before I could post any links to it. We brought two teenage girl cousins with us, which I highly recommend to anyone considering taking four young children to a museum and waterfront and restaurant. Extra helpers for the win!

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Of course we came home late and then had to scramble to get the little ones to bed, and then of course I had to catch Mr. Donald J. (Why does he insist on that silly J?) Trump’s acceptance speech.

Ugh. Is this really what’s become of us?

(I probably shouldn’t write that, but then I suppose I’ve made my feelings toward Mr. Trump well enough known here already.)

Anyway! Before last night’s speech there were Wednesday night’s speeches (including Ted Cruz’s! So much intrigue!) and I wrote a blog post about them. Well, about them and the convention in general. And the downfall of the Republican Party. And Turkey. And the recent shootings of/by police officers.

So I hope you’ll take a look at it. Here’s an excerpt:

“Many say – and maybe they’re right – that Trump’s done so well because he’s been able to take advantage of white working class anger at such things. But he doesn’t deserve all the credit.

Because it’s not all about those conditions. I think the Republican Party has had an outsized role in its own disruption/decline/dismantling/demise/whatever this is. The Party’s leaders, egged on in recent years by the Tea Party, have made hay by saying that “Washington” was the problem.

Well, what did they think they were going to do when voters (understandably) decided that “Washington” includes Republicans too? And not just the old-school, committee chairman-type Republicans – the Tea Party types too. The Ted Cruzes.

A whole generation of Republican politicians has made promises they could not keep. They have conditioned the electorate to expect ever wilder promises, to reach toward ever more unattainable goals. It’s no surprise that they faltered when they were called out for not delivering what couldn’t be delivered in the first place.”

Head on over to the Catholic Review for the rest.

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The Better, Impractical Choice

I’m over at my (new) blog today, expressing some frustration about presidential politics and pledging to not be part of the problem. (That is, to not vote for either major candidate.) It’s a perky little piece, I’ll tell you that!

“If politicians are slippery, if they tell us only what we want to hear, if they refuse to offer real solutions, if they’re unwilling to work with those with whom they disagree – it’s because we have made them that way.

We reward negative campaigning. We punish compromise. We respond to sound bites. We expect ideological purity (i.e. You Must Think Exactly As I Do). We champion magic-wand political solutions. (How about I just say that I’ll “Make America Great Again” and wiggle my magic wand in the air, and it will be so! How about I make economic inequality just… disappear! How about I build a big wall at no cost and magically make it get rid of all the scary people? How about we pass a law that will – poof! – make people stop shooting each other?)

We have gotten ourselves stuck between a rock and a hard place. We have done this. We have made presidential campaigns into something that decent people cannot win.”

The Space Between - The Better Impractical Choice

On My Mind

Today I’m over at my new blog at the Catholic Review, kicking off a weekly round-up of my thoughts on current events. This week, as you might imagine, the thoughts are heavy:

The past ten or so days have felt like a watershed moment for our country. The deaths of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Philando Castile in Minnesota, and the five police officers in Dallas – they seem heavy and unreal, like a terrible dream. They dominate the news and my mind, yet so far I’ve kept quiet about them.

Because I don’t know what to say.

I can’t think of a thing to say that’s not inadequate. I can’t put together my thoughts in a way that would accurately express my feelings or appropriately honor the lives that have been lost. I’ve been trying, but so far I just haven’t been able to make it work.

So for the moment, I’ll just point you to a few of the pieces on the subject that have resonated with me.

The Space Between - On My Mind

Announcing…

No, not another baby.

Though our oldest has repeatedly talked on and on about “all the other baby girls we’re going to have,” and the next in line is so effusive in his love toward our youngest that he literally told her, “You are my dweam come twue” – so if another should ever come to pass, we know that at least half the crew in this picture would be thrilled.

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But that’s not what this announcement is about. No.

This is to tell you that I’m starting a new blog! The kind folks at the Catholic Review (the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Baltimore) have invited me to start a blog on their site, which will “focus mainly on issues related to faithful citizenship – offering commentary on the political world, legislation, civic responsibility and the upcoming election.”

I was thrilled to accept. The Catholic Review is the best-written local paper I’ve come across. I’m continually impressed with their work and I feel honored to be able to contribute to it in some small way.

I will still be here at These Walls on matters of motherhood, family life, and the odd political thing that for whatever reason doesn’t seem to be a good fit for the Review. But most of my writings on politics and society will now be found over there, on my new blog, which will be called The Space Between.

The blog’s name comes from a conversation I had with a friend about what we see lacking in most political discussions today – a willingness to admit that each side is at least a little bit right, that most people come to their positions honestly, that there remains a space for real conversation – not just conflict.

I think the name is well illustrated by something I noticed the other day while praying at the grotto outside my parish in Libertytown: Two rocks stood against each other, similarly strong and stubborn-looking, with a slight gap between them. Through the gap, I could see light – sunlight filtered through the woods behind the grotto.

People tend to focus on the discord of politics – on fighting and nastiness and sides standing in opposition to one another. But I’m interested in that gap, that space between. I’m interested in the place where the sides bang up against each other, where we get to see how different (or not) they really are. I’m interested in getting to what we really mean, what we really care about, what really motivates us – and carrying on the conversation from there.

I want to use this blog to explore different political perspectives, to work through issues that divide us (especially those rising to the fore in the 2016 presidential campaign), to consider whether we’re well represented by the categories – political party and otherwise – that the real pundits like to put us in. I have a feeling we’re not. I have a feeling that we’re often better suited for the space between than we are the rocks pressing up against each other.

Read more in yesterday’s post – the blog’s first.

For the foreseeable future I plan to post links to each of that blog’s new posts on this one too. So if you’re subscribed here you’ll still receive notice of all my new posts. But I’d love if you could subscribe there too, and like the new blog’s new Facebook page.

Fair warning: if you’re a Facebook friend of mine, you’ll likely soon receive invitations to like both blogs’ pages. I promise to just do it once. (Or at least not again for a few years.)

Oh! And I’ve changed both my Twitter and Instagram handles to reflect my name rather than this blog’s. They are now both julievwalsh. I decided I could handle one new Facebook page, but I couldn’t handle duplicating all my social media accounts.

I think that’s it for now. I hope to see you over at the new place!

These Walls - Announcing

Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Touch My Baby (An Update on Our Girl)

Last you heard from me I was writing to you from the hospital, where Baby Girl was being treated for pneumonia and some unknown stomach-something, which was suspected to be a bacterial infection. Three days into her hospital stay (she ended up being there for four days) we had our answer: salmonella poisoning.

Yes. Seriously. Our four-month-old infant who eats no food somehow got food poisoning.

We don’t know how it happened. It’s possible she picked it up from her brothers, who had played with some turtles in a nearby pond a couple of weeks earlier. (Apparently turtles are a common carrier of salmonella – who knew?) It’s also possible (probably more possible than not) that I gave it to her, that I contracted it by handling raw food or – ahem – eating raw brownie batter or something, and then touched her bottle or pacifier and passed it on to her. (You have no idea how guilty this possibility makes me feel.)

We’ve learned that it’s not uncommon for a healthy person to carry salmonella without experiencing symptoms of it. Which normally isn’t a big deal – not unless that person is in close contact with someone with an immature or compromised immune system. Like an infant.

Ugh.

Hence the title of this post. Not that I (at all!) blame Baby Girl’s illness on contact with random strangers, but I’ve always been something of a germophobe and those tendencies have been amplified by this experience. With any contact our baby has with another person, I worry that a new bacteria will get her sick.

I’ve been reverting to new-momma protective, squirming when strangers approach us in public and barking “DON’T TOUCH THE BABY” at her brothers. I’m sure we’ll mellow at some point, but right now it’s just all so fresh.

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But seriously – do you know how often people walk up to babies and grab their tiny hands? All the time.  (Don’t they know that babies stick their hands in their mouths?) When it’s a child, I usually feel comfortable enough to chirp, “You can touch her feet, but please don’t touch her hands!” But I’ll admit I have a harder time correcting an adult. Adults should know better.

Mamas, don’t let your babies touch my baby. (Or at least not her face and hands.) And don’t you do it either.

Sigh.

Babies are so vulnerable and fragile. And this whole thing has been such a tremendous bother.

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Baby Girl is mostly recovered now, but she was in pretty rough shape for her first couple of days at the hospital. She felt horrible, she wouldn’t eat, she was poked with needles again and again. She fussed with her IV. She slept or cried or just looked thoroughly pathetic.

Once home we had follow-up appointments and phone calls to manage, prescriptions to fill, more and more diarrhea to deal with (it can take two weeks to clear up), and (I hate to even write this) stool samples to collect from her big brothers.

Did I mention that this whole thing has been a bother? What a pain.

And we’re not done. Though (thankfully!) the first round of stool samples came back negative, we’ve got to do another round to be sure. And after a couple of days of normality, Baby Girl’s diarrhea returned, so now she’s been put on another round of antibiotics.

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Gosh, she’s just the sweetest little thing.

She’s so sweet and she’s been such a champ through all of this. I sure hope we’re about done with it.

These Walls -- Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Touch My Baby

Wait. Was That Supposed to be Father’s Day?

Meet my husband, Brennan — the man who is completely, totally fine with our Father’s Day weekend not being being focused on him in the slightest.

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I guess it started last week, actually, when he took a day off work and was therefore standing in the driveway for a midday delivery from the UPS guy. I saw him collect the package with its contents advertised in a big! clear! photo! and stare at it in a confused sort of way. “Happy Father’s Day,” I yelled dully through the window.

Then Saturday we hosted a 6th birthday party for our oldest son. A Star Wars party. The kids wore little Jedi costumes, they played some poorly-thought-out games, we ate some carryout fried chicken and a cake that I didn’t have time to finish decorating.

But the little Jedis-in-training got to attack Darth Vader with silly string, so it was allllll good.

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You know this is what treadmills are for, right?

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Success on that front.

However, just as the party was beginning, our little peanut started to become sick. She spiked a fever, she had some diarrhea, and she was really, really not her usual smiley self.

We pushed through the party, Baby Girl was happy to be held by her grandma and great-grandmom, and we thought it was just a little passing thing due to her shots earlier in the week. But as the evening wore on, her diapers increased in frequency. By the morning, we knew we needed to take her to the ER.

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Her bloodwork came back a little worrisome and her chest x-ray showed some pneumonia, so they decided to admit her. Good thing, too: her fever was creeping up and she’d stopped eating.

So Brennan’s Father’s Day consisted mostly of wrangling our boys while he worried about our girl. But he did stop by the hospital for a visit in the evening. And Sweetie Pie rewarded him with her first smile of the day.

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We (she and I) are here still. (So forgive this smartphone-published blog post for any editing errors.) They’re keeping her another night, which is both sad and a relief. They think the diarrhea is caused by a bacterial infection, so she’ll get her second round of IV antibiotics sometime today.

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Hopefully tomorrow she’ll be feeling a great deal better, and they’ll have all her test results back, and she’ll be eating enough to stay hydrated. Hopefully.

Because we need to get this girl home to her Daddy and brothers. I’d like us to finally get a chance to celebrate Brennan, even if just a little bit. And I want to see this happy face again.

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