All Over the Place (7 Quick Takes, Vol. 44)

Guys, I am so rusty. I swear, in the however-many-months I wasn’t writing, my brain calcified or something. I feel like I’ve forgotten how to do this – how to sit at the computer for an extended period of time, stringing words together in a way that will convey coherent thoughts.

So bear with me?

I think whatever writing I do here for a while is likely to be all over the place. Like, right now the things I most want to write about include (1) the Republicans’ new immigration bill (blech), (2) privilege and poverty, and (3) my noise-cancelling headphones, which are probably the best thing to happen to me this year.

Except for New Baby Girl, of course. (Can I insert heart emoji into a blog post?)

Anyway, Quick Takes. They seem to be about my speed at the present moment. Here we go:

7 Quick Takes - hosted at This Aint the Lyceum

—1—

I’m always trying to get organized, so me trying isn’t exactly newsworthy. But me making some actual progress is! Lately we’ve gone through a ton of clothes and household items and donated them to a local thrift store. I’ve tackled our dining room and our disaster of a bedroom. I’ve folded piles of laundry so old they’d begun to feel like permanent fixtures. I’ve gone through papers and toys and boxes and dishes. I’ve been filling in my new Blessed is She planner (which is beautiful!) with months’ worth of doctor’s appointments, meetings, and school holidays.

Whew!

I still have so much to do. I’m not done with all the scheduling and all the many tasks that the scheduling reminds me to take care of. I want to get the kids’ bedroom stuff organized so we can move them around. And I want to get last year’s school papers cleared out before this year’s start coming in. Still, progress is progress!

—2—

But don’t let me fool you. These days I’m driving around with a bottle of Windex in my front seat because I keep forgetting to ask my husband to refill my van’s wiper fluid. I am on. the. ball.

—3—

Last Sunday I took the following pic of my kiddos after Mass:

These Walls - All Over the Place 7QT44 - 1

I do believe it might be my favorite in a long, long time.

—4—

I’m helping to organize my 20th high school reunion this fall. Twentieth, you guys. Twen.ti.eth.

—5—

We’re going on a vacation! It’s only for four days (travel included) and it’s not to anywhere very far away, but I am so, so excited. We haven’t been on a family vacation in four whole years (meaning only two of our kids have ever been on a vacation before, and those two probably have no memory of it). And this will be our first vacation to somewhere other than Minnesota or Indiana (i.e. places where we were visiting family.)

We’re going to be staying in a hotel! And eating out! And doing touristy stuff! I know that we’ll be exhausted and that packing/traveling/sightseeing with the kids will be a hassle, but I’m still thrilled. We homebodies are getting awaaay!

These Walls - All Over the Place 7QT44 - 2

(Not the moment we told them. We actually haven’t told them yet, so if you see us in person soon, don’t you tell them either!)

Oh, I should have told you where we’re going: Williamsburg, Virginia. We’re going to visit Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown (where I have some neat family history), and we’re going to swim in the hotel pool.

We homebodies are easily entertained.

—6—

If you’re a Catholic lady heading to the Edel Gathering in Austin this weekend, I hope you have an amazing time. I was fortunate enough to attend the first Edel Gathering, and it was incredible.

Here’s a post I wrote in the run-up to the second Edel Gathering (which I could not attend). All those hopes for those ladies back then – I’m hoping them for you today. Enjoy!

—7—

Please keep baby Edith, Rosie Hill’s daughter, in your prayers today. She’s undergoing surgery this morning to remove some masses from her lungs. May her surgery and recovery all proceed smoothly, and may her family be comforted in this stressful time.

~~~

Have a great weekend, and be sure to hop on over to Kelly’s for the rest of this week’s Quick Takes!

These Walls - All Over the Place 7QT44

Remembering Cardinal Keeler

I had planned to write on another topic today, but when I woke to see the news of Cardinal Keeler’s passing, all I could think about was him, so I thought I’d share those thoughts instead.

I am not someone who knew Cardinal Keeler well; like many hundreds if not thousands of others, I am someone who simply encountered the Cardinal, who met him and watched him and who feels blessed to have done so. But though I have no intimate or profound experiences to relate, I can tell you about the love and light I felt when I was around Cardinal Keeler, and which I feel now as I remember him.

I grew up in the Archdiocese of Baltimore – I was ten when Keeler was installed as Archbishop and nearly thirty when he retired – so to me, the Cardinal looms large as a representation of bishops, and of the Archdiocese, and indeed of the Church itself.

But not just because of his position.

Cardinal Keeler was one of those rare individuals who made everyone feel like they counted. He connected with people. He was funny and clever and he had this sparkle in his eye that made you feel like you were in on the joke. The Cardinal exuded love and warmth and an intangible quality that must have had something to do with the light of Christ. You just felt lucky to be around him.

(Read the rest at the Catholic Review.)

The Space Between - Remembering Cardinal Keeler

Seven Posts I Haven’t Yet Told You About (7 Quick Takes, Vol. 43)

Hello there!

Gosh, it’s been forever again, hasn’t it? Especially since I keep forgetting to cross-post my Catholic Review blog posts here. Argh. All that time writing and I don’t even share it with you. (Unless you follow me on Facebook. Then maybe you’ve seen my posts.)

When I started that blog I was pretty good about sticking a new post here every time I had one there. But then I started forgetting, and once I started forgetting, I felt like I had to catch up before I could post anything new. (Weirdo-OCD-perfectionist Julie.)

Anyway — this is me catching up!

Here are seven posts (one in two parts) I haven’t yet told you about. And because I’ve (kind of) hit the lucky number seven here, I’m linking up with Kelly for Seven Quick Takes. (By the way, if you haven’t yet read her latest 7QT post — don’t miss it! It’s This Ain’t the Lyceum GOLD.)

—1—

the-space-between-good-bones

“Our system is better designed to stop than to do, and for one who fears the direction of a new government, that should be a comfort.

(Conservatives saw the value in that uncooperative-cog concept in the last administration; liberals will undoubtedly see it this time.)

So as worrisome as political developments may seem, I retain my basic trust in that spread-out, clunky system. I may disagree with the people who make it up, I may see few prospects for positive developments, but I trust that if things become truly dangerous, some sticky cog will get in the way.

God bless those sticky cogs.”

(Click here to read the whole post.)

—2—

the-space-between-in-this-moment

“Lately I feel like a failure at pretty much everything I try to do: mothering, managing my household, blogging, being a good friend and an involved member of my extended family. (I know I’m not actually a failure, but it sure feels like it at times, especially as the holidays multiply our obligations.)

I feel like I’m a failure at being an attentive and engaged citizen. My post-election sense of being overwhelmed has not gone away. I’ve found it difficult to keep up with the competing news stories and the competing narratives of single news stories. I haven’t weighed in on anything. I haven’t gotten my little “let’s get people of different political stripes together to talk” project off the ground. (Status: information gathered, dates not yet set.)

I feel kind of like I have writer’s block, except it has to do with the thinking of the whole thing, not the writing. As I become more consumed with events at home (some of them pretty stressful), I pay less attention to news from the outside. And as I pay less attention to the news, I feel increasingly less capable of any sort of mental and emotional wrangling with the world.

But I’ve been trying, when I think of it, to rely on a strategy from an earlier point in my life: putting aside my worries about what I’m not achieving and instead focusing on what I am doing in a particular moment. Usually (but not always), that “doing” is pretty constructive, even if it seems insignificant in the scheme of things.”

(Click here to read the whole post.)

—3—

the-space-between-lets-not-hurry-the-downward-spiral

“Why must we choose a side and hold onto it so tightly?

During the campaign, of course, the “side” thing was taken to a frenzied, fevered pitch. Third-party voters like myself were told in one breath that we were essentially voting for Clinton and in the next that we were essentially voting for Trump. (The supposed beneficiaries of our votes aligning perfectly with our critics’ bogeymen.) Our votes – our actual votes – weren’t good enough. We either had to hate Trump enough to vote for Clinton or hate Clinton enough to vote for Trump. People seemed downright blinded by the binary.

But that was then, back when we were facing a black-and-white choice on a ballot. What about now?

No doubt, many will choose to continue carrying on this way. Some will think we owe allegiance to one side or the other. Some will think that any kindness or concession to the opposing side is a blow to their own. Some will think that their own side’s transgressions must be overlooked in the interest of some Important Ultimate Goal.

But I think this attachment to the binary is the absolute worst course we could take as Americans, as lovers of democracy and liberty and justice. No one wins in the downward spiral of suspicious, spiteful, partisan politics.”

(Click here to read the whole post.)

—4—

the-space-between-a-lot-can-happen-in-90-days

“For all the focus on national-level politics, many (most?) of the programs and policy decisions that impact our everyday lives are formulated much closer to home than Washington, DC.

Schools, roads, assistance programs, the environment, hospitals and clinics, business incentives and regulations – the State of Maryland (and your state too, if you live elsewhere) has a hand in it all. And in turn, organizations that you and I care about – our faith communities, our schools, labor or business or other advocacy organizations – have a hand in the development of the laws, policies and regulations of the state . . .

Ninety days from now, the Senate will still be debating at least some of Trump’s appointments. We’ll still, I expect, be witnessing a tense back-and-forth between the president and the media. We’ll probably feel stuck on a whole range of issues and relationships.

But in that time, we’ll also have seen much movement at the state level. Maryland will have passed a budget and hundreds of other bills that will impact our lives for years to come. Let’s pay attention, because lot can happen in 90 days.”

(Click here to read the whole post.)

—5—

the-space-between-praying-on-this-inauguration-day

“Today as we inaugurate a new American president, I sit at home nervous, waiting, wondering what will come of this all. I haven’t decided whether I’ll watch. I’m more likely to listen, the radio humming in the background as I busy myself with lunch and laundry and little ones.

But I’m sure to be praying.”

(Click here to read the whole post.)

—6—

the-space-between-pro-lifers-need-to-talk-about-it-all

“It’s natural that we should vary in our attachment to various issues, so I don’t mean to tell one set of pro-lifers or another that they’re wrong in focusing their efforts on x,y,z. You do you: pray at an abortion clinic, volunteer at a soup kitchen, donate to Catholic Charities / Catholic Relief Services / National Right to Life. Do your part, whatever it is, to advance the dignity of human life.

But I do think that all pro-lifers should do a better job of talking about it all. Liberal pro-lifers should speak against abortion just as they speak against poverty and discrimination. Conservative pro-lifers should speak for the immigrant and the refugee just as they speak for the babies. Because this divide has become too divisive. There is too much resentment. There is too much misunderstanding. There is too much distrust. There is too much space for evil to sneak its way in.

And there are too many women who hear that pro-lifers “only care about babies until they’re born” and believe it.

The honest truth is, each side of this divide is incomplete without the other. If human life is to be respected, it’s to be respected at all stages. If human life is to be respected, it is to be respected in all forms. If we Catholic pro-lifers truly believe that each human being is created in the image and likeness of God, then we’d better talk like we do. We’d better dwell on that idea, chew on it, practice it by saying it aloud.”

(Click here to read the whole post.)

—7—

the-space-between-trying-to-decide-when-to-panic-part-one

“I’m trying to decide when to panic.

Standing where I am (somewhere in the middle, I suppose) I turn to face my friends on the left and panic is pretty much all I see. Well, panic and its more sober, productive, currently-popular relation: resistance. I see people who are more than just dismayed at the direction in which our government is heading; they fear that the system upon which we rely – a system of justice and due process and free speech and equal opportunity – is coming undone. They fear that we could be nearing the end of the American experiment.

Turning to face my friends on the right, I mostly see amusement or bemusement or even satisfaction at the Left’s distress. They think the panic is overblown. If they supported Trump’s “bull in a china shop” campaign persona, they’re thrilled to see it carried over to his presidency. If they weren’t crazy about that persona then, well, they’re mostly just relieved to see Trump heading in the right direction. Clumsy steps in the right direction are better than agile steps in the wrong one, they seem to say.”

(Click here to read the whole post.)

the-space-between-trying-to-decide-when-to-panic-part-two

“I used to think of myself as the stubborn, brave, independent type – the type who spoke the truth and stuck up for the oppressed no matter the consequences. After all, I was a kid who stood up to bullies. I regularly stick up for myself. I used to make my living advocating for the poor, the vulnerable, the stranger. I write on contentious issues – issues that wrangle with the concept of justice – all the time.

But the older, or the more self-aware, or the more flawed I become, the more I see how gutless I can be.”

(Click here to read the whole post.)

~~~

Thanks for indulging my little catch-up! I hope you’ll check out the posts and I hope to have more for you (both here and there) soon. Have a great week!

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~~~

Interested in coming along with me as I share stories about my family and chew on the topics of motherhood, politics, and society? Like These Walls on Facebook or follow the blog via email. (Click the link on the sidebar to the right.) You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram and you can find me at my politics blog at the Catholic Review, called The Space Between.

On My Mind (Vol. 7)

Over at my Catholic Review blog, this was a Clinton week for a change. I shared my thoughts on her flubs and my thoughts related to those thoughts. Like this one:

This whole “deplorable” thing has prompted me to think about my own feelings toward the segments of the voting population with whom I disagree. I’m not truly angry with them. Maybe I’m the kind of frustrated-angry where you want to grab someone by the shoulders and shake some sense into them, but I’m not the kind of shouty-angry where you fool yourself into thinking that those someones are bad guys out to wreck society.

Part of it is because I recognize the love and beauty in people I know and disagree with. In them, I note a position I disagree with or support for a candidate I can’t stand, but I mostly see their talents and kindnesses and humor and wit and hard work and loyalty. And I know that if this “there’s-more-to-a-person-than-his-politics” thing is true of the small slice of America I’m familiar with, it’s also true for the rest of it.

For more on this, and on Clinton, and on global security concerns too, head on over to The Space Between.

The Space Between - On My Mind

People Move, Things Change, Families Matter: Thinking through the issue of immigration

Given last week’s confusing stream of Trump-related immigration news and the candidate’s announcements that today he will both travel to Mexico to meet its president and give a major immigration policy speech in Arizona, I thought I’d offer my own thoughts on the issue.

It is, of course, a really tough one – one that seems to be ever-controversial, ever-divisive, and ever able to lose you friends and win you enemies. It can take misunderstandings, resentments, fears, frustrations, and economic and cultural insecurities and tie them up into tight, tricky knots.

Yet I think the issue is one that is especially worth pondering.

Read the rest at the Catholic Review.

The Space Between - People Move Things Change Families Matter - Thinking through the issue of immigration

#NeverTrump: It’s Not Enough to Not Be Hillary

Last night when I heard that Ted Cruz had suspended his presidential bid, I thought my heart would stop. I stood at the kitchen sink, motions suspended, heart feeling like it would slow to nothing.

I had not expected him to drop out. I didn’t even like Cruz, but I counted on him to be there until the end. I clung to the hope that he and Kasich could drive us to a contested convention, where surely the majority of Republicans who dislike Trump would finally triumph.

I thought somehow we would be saved. (INDIANA, YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO SAVE US!)

I’m numb as I consider the future of this race, and indeed this country. I’m disturbed to think of the millions who voted for Trump. I’m generally pretty respectful of those with whom I disagree, but this time I can’t muster it. I cannot respect those who would vote for a bullying, lying, irrational, ill-tempered, inconsistent, incoherent, outrageous showman. Or (for those who think Trump isn’t really as bad as he makes himself out to be) for one who plays that act in order to get votes. Donald Trump has pandered to our basest instincts, to our worst fears, to the darkest, most selfish parts of ourselves – and it has worked. For shame.

So no, I most definitely will not be voting for Trump in November.

“But, but… Hillary!” you might cry. “You don’t want Hillary to win, do you?”

No, of course I don’t. I do not like Hillary Clinton. I think she lacks integrity and I think she thinks that she can play by a different set of rules from the rest of us. I disagree with many of her policy positions (most especially when it comes to abortion) and I think she views people who are ideologically different from her – people like me – with disdain.

But I base my support (or opposition, as the case is here) of candidates on a number of measures, and not being Hillary Clinton is not one of them.

I want to agree with my candidate on the issues.

This is probably the most obvious thing to consider when choosing a candidate, but it can also be the hardest to achieve. Have I ever encountered a politician with whom I agree on everything? Doubtful. I subscribe to what you might call the Catholic platform: I’m staunchly pro-life, by which I mean I’m against abortion, euthanasia, and the death penalty. But (and I really shouldn’t feel like I have to say “but” here) I’m also for programs and policies that help struggling people get ahead in life. Housing, health care, workforce issues – you name it – I think government has a role (a role, not the only role) to play in improving people’s lives. I also believe in recognizing the dignity and potential of all people via fair asylum and immigration policies (i.e. NOT A WALL) and just religious freedom protections.

I doubt that Donald Trump and I agree on any of those issues. (Though honestly it can be a little hard to tell, what with how scattered and nonsensical he is when describing where he stands.) When it comes to Hillary Clinton, ironically, I may actually agree with her on a few issues. Imagine that.

I want my candidate to have integrity.

If there’s one glaring thing Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have in common, it’s probably their spectacular lack of integrity. Clinton’s got Benghazi and the phone hacking scandal (and years of more) under her belt; Trump’s got so much I don’t even know where to begin. I don’t trust either of them to act honorably in office. So unfortunately, the integrity measure is pretty much moot in this match-up.

I want my candidate to be capable.

Here’s somewhere I see a difference between the two candidates. Like her or loathe her, I think Clinton would be capable at governing. I realize that to some of her foes, Clinton’s potential for governing capably is just another reason to fear her, but I guess I think a functioning presidency would be better for the country than a sloppy, reckless, fumbling one. Sue me.

I want my candidate to be able to work with people with whom they disagree.

I know that in this election cycle, lots and lots of people want candidates who promise to go into office ready to “blow up Washington.” Well, count me boring or deluded or out-of-touch or something, but I expect elected officials to actually be able to work with other people to get things accomplished. We got into this mess by demonizing those with whom we disagree. Doing more of the same won’t get us out of it.

This is another measure on which both candidates are spectacularly bad. Trump belittles those who oppose him, he calls people names, he makes people who disagree with him out to be idiots, he even incites violence against them. And Clinton, well, her talk of wanting to be a president for all Americans is pretty much laughable. Hillary Clinton is one of the most divisive figures in modern political history. She’s not going to stop being divisive because she’s got Trump for an opponent. I’m sure she’ll be the same sort of “inclusive” president as Obama – she’ll be happy to work with you as long as you think she’s right.

#NeverTrump: It's Not Enough To Not Be Hillary - 1

How I’m feeling right now.

In sum, I cannot think of one compelling reason to vote for Donald Trump in November. I don’t agree with him and I have no confidence that the Republican label will magically make him fall in line. (He has campaigned exactly as he pleases, he’ll govern exactly as he pleases. I think pro-lifers, in particular, are deluding themselves to think he’ll be better than Clinton.) He lacks integrity. He is in all likelihood incapable of or unwilling to govern responsibly. He seems constitutionally unable to work with those with whom he disagrees. There’s nothing left. He ticks none of my boxes.

Moreover, Donald Trump is absurdly, outrageously awful. He makes a mockery of our electoral system and the values for which our country stands – the values for which I stand.

It’s not enough to not be Hillary.

So what am I going to do? Who will I vote for? I’ll either choose a third-party candidate or I’ll write one in. I happen to live in a state that will go for Hillary regardless, so I know that my vote against Trump but not for Hillary won’t somehow help him. But if I did live in a state where the competition was very tight, if I did think that choosing a third-party candidate would be helpful to Trump… I would vote for Clinton. I hate to say that. But I would do it. Our country is too important to dump into the lap of Trump.

#NeverTrump: It's Not Enough To Not Be Hillary

A Walk In Words With Pope Francis

Catholic Women Bloggers of the Mid-Atlantic Celebrate His Visit to Our Region

by Abigail Benjamin and Julie Walsh

A Walk In Words With Pope Francis

Pope Francis will make his first visit to the United States from September 22, 2015 to September 27, 2015. The Pope will visit the cities of Washington D.C., New York City, and Philadelphia, in addition to celebrating Mass at the World Meeting of Families.

The Mid-Atlantic Conference of the Catholic Women Blogger Network (CWBN) is a lively group of writers from Virginia to New York. We feel blessed to be welcoming our Holy Father to our home region this September.

Several of our members plan to attend official events during the Pope’s visit; others will be monitoring them from their homes and communities. Regardless of our locales, our members look forward to the opportunity to #WalkwithFrancis via our reports and reflections on the Pope’s historic visit to the United States.

Select CWBN members will attend the following events during Pope Francis’s visit:

  • Arrival at Andrews Airforce Base (Washington, D.C.)
  • White House Welcoming Ceremony (Washington, D.C.)
  • Papal Parade (Washington, D.C.)
  • Canonization Mass for Blessed Junipero Serra (Washington, D.C.)
  • Address to Congress (Washington, D.C.)
  • Central Park Procession (New York City)
  • Mass at Madison Square Gardens (New York City)
  • World Meeting of Families (Philadelphia)

Other members will monitor those events and more (including the Masses, the Pope’s addresses to Congress and the United Nations, and his visit to the 9/11 Memorial in New York City) from home.

Those who have committed to posting on the Papal visit include:

Please stop back here as the Pope’s visit progresses (and after it concludes) for links to our members’ posts. This collection-point will be updated at least daily, and more frequently as necessary. New posts will be added from September 22nd through the 29th.

Please also follow our members who plan to have a heavy presence on social media during the Pope’s visit:

We hope you find that our effort to #WalkwithFrancis helps you to do the same.

Day 1 Sept 22

A Walk in Words With Pope Francis - Patti Murphy DohnFrom Patti Murphy Dohn:

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What This Catholic Wants in a President (And How the Candidates Measure Up) – Part Three

Welcome to Part Three of my first-ever series:

These Walls - What This Catholic Wants in a President Part Three

Today’s post covers some of the “hot” political issues that I care most about. I had been hoping to cover all such issues in this post, but long enough is long enough. So today you get: the Social Safety Net, Abortion, Religious Freedom, and Capital Punishment/Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide. On Monday (updated to correct to next week, at some point), I’ll cover the remaining issues on my list: Immigration, Foreign and Military Policy, The Economy, The Environment, and Education.

For an introduction of the series and an explanation of how my Catholic faith has influenced my political outlook, please see Part One.

For a discussion on some of the qualities I want in a president and a few of the broad issues that impact the more specific, controversial issues (like those in this post), please see Part Two.

For my thoughts on how the presidential candidates (of both parties) measure up to my (unreasonably high) standards, please come back next week and beyond for parts Five through however-many-I-get-to.

(Mostly) Hot on the Hot Stuff

Alright, now that I’ve gotten past those general, boring, impacts-everything-else issues, how about we get into the juicier stuff?

I tend to run pretty hot on the social issues. They’re where my Catholicism really comes to bear: I’m for a social safety net for vulnerable populations, against abortion, for religious freedom in the workplace, against capital punishment, for immigration, against euthanasia, and for an active foreign and military policy that aims to resolve conflicts and protect persecuted communities.

On a few other issues – the economy, the environment, and education – I guess I have a vague, limited opinion, but I’m just not too wrapped up in them. You can’t be hot on everything.

— Social Safety Net —

First, a decidedly un-Republican thing to be for: a social safety net that helps vulnerable populations actually move forward with their lives. And by “vulnerable populations” I mean the chronically poor, the mentally ill, the addicted, the disabled, and the (practically, if not officially) orphaned.

This is an issue (or rather, a collection of issues) I never knew much about until I worked with it/them. (I used to lobby on poverty-related issues on behalf of the Catholic Church.) There’s so much to the topic that I could write an entire series on it alone, so I won’t try to be exhaustive here. (Lengthy, perhaps – but not exhaustive.) I’ll just make three general points:

One, there are fewer resources for help than you think. I can’t begin to tell you the number of phone calls I’ve fielded from those in need, or whose loved ones were – and I didn’t even do the actual work of trying to connect people to resources. I just lobbied on such issues.

Just lost your job and need a few hundred dollars to tide you over with the rent so you’re not evicted? Sorry – our state’s rental assistance program is teeny tiny and not accepting any more applicants. And eviction prevention programs are so specific that few people qualify for them.

Need longer-term help with the rent because you can’t find a job that pays enough for you to stay afloat in this expensive housing market? Sorry, there’s a seven-year waiting list for Section 8 in your county.

Need a place for you and your kids to stay tonight because you’re (rightly!) trying to get away from an abusive home? Sorry, neither your county nor any of the neighboring ones have a public homeless shelter. And though the Church does operate two women & family shelters in this metropolitan area, both are full, with waiting lists.

Have an adult child showing signs of serious mental illness for whom you want to get help? Sorry, we can get him admitted to the hospital for a day or so, but we can’t do anything else.

Have a child suffering from addiction? Sorry, private rehab programs are expensive and public ones are mostly full.

On public assistance already, but want to take a better-paying position so you can move up the ladder at work and build a small savings to eventually by a car (so your job options won’t be limited by those accessible via public transportation) or put down a rental deposit on your own apartment or just have a little cash in the bank for emergencies?  (You know – the things that would enable you, ultimately, to not need assistance?)  Sorry, if you make any more income you’ll lose your assistance entirely. Same if you start saving. You’d better just stick with that lower-paying job so you don’t end up worse off than you are now.

(Sorry for the length on that last one – it just had to be said.)

The truth is, most of those living in poverty or experiencing other serious hardships have very few options for help. Government programs are often insufficient, understaffed, and restrictive. And though private, charitable programs do wonderful work, their resources (and therefore efforts) are more limited than anyone would like.

For all the complaining we hear about entitlements, most government assistance programs for the poor are not entitlements, meaning that when they’re full, they’re full. They’ve no obligation to take you. Entitlement programs (like Food Stamps), in which any eligible person must be served, are the exception and they’re limited to very specific purposes. Political talk about how large entitlements are and how very much of the budget they consume primarily reflects the size of the Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid programs. (Of which only the third is exclusive to the poor.)

For many who live in poverty, the odds are simply stacked against them: difficulties related to housing, transportation, education, health, family life, and criminal backgrounds often conspire to make self-improvement literally impossible. And poverty aside, even most middle-class families are ill-equipped to handle the costs associated with addressing severe mental illness, addiction, or disability.

Two, the government is the most effective way for us to collectively support people in need.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could depend on our churches and charities and families and neighborhoods to support those who find themselves in a bind? Absolutely. All of the above do good, important work. But they don’t do nearly enough of it for us as a society to be able to depend upon them alone. Many churches and charities struggle from declining participation and donations. (Note: If you don’t already, please give to your local Catholic Charities!) And many families and neighborhoods, sadly, are not equipped to help their most vulnerable members. Some – the really dysfunctional ones – already do them more harm than good.

Three, simply, I believe that it’s important to help those in need. Just as simple as that: we should help those in need. That’s common human decency. But it’s also one of my calls as a Catholic. I should help the neighbor I know and the one I don’t. I should give of my time, talent, and treasure. And I should care whether the help that’s given is sufficient and effective.

In sum, I want something from a president that most Republicans are unlikely to deliver: a commitment to policies and programs that provide for real, useful assistance for vulnerable populations. If I can find a candidate who seems to fit this bill and is also pro-life, well then, he (or she) may well be my guy.

— Abortion —

Next up, the biggest of the don’t-bring-it-up-at-a-dinner-party topics, the one that’s lighting up our newsfeeds nonetheless: abortion.

If you couldn’t tell by now, I’m really, very much against it. (I’ve written about it in greater detail here.) And I want a candidate who is too.*

Honestly, there is no one issue that is more important to me than abortion. I consider myself pro-life in the fullest sense of the word – I’m against the death penalty and euthanasia, and for programs and policies that help individuals attain the necessities of life. But when it comes down to it, I think there can hardly be anything more wrong in this world than ripping apart an innocent child in her mother’s womb.

Social moderates in the Republican Party advocate, quietly and not, for the Party to shift its focus away from divisive issues like abortion. But this social conservative is here to say that if you give up the stance against abortion, Republican Party, you will lose me. I already disagree with large factions of the Party on immigration and bi-partisanship and social welfare. If the Republican Party ditches its traditional commitment to pro-life policies, then I will have no compelling reason to stay.

In short: I refuse to vote for a Republican candidate for president who isn’t convincingly pro-life. And absent a dire turn of events (i.e. Trump winning the nomination), I can’t see myself voting for a pro-choice Democratic candidate either.

*I think any (eventual) law prohibiting abortion will have to include an exception for when the mother’s life is in danger. Such cases may be exceedingly rare, but politically and legally, I think we’ll have to allow for that possibility.

— Religious Freedom —

Maintaining full, real religious freedom is exceedingly important to me. As I wrote here, I firmly believe that there are no more fundamental rights than those to (life,) speech, and religion. “When I am able to speak freely, my mind is free. When I am able to worship freely, my heart and soul are free too.”

Honestly, I don’t worry that the government is about to start dictating which religious doctrines are or aren’t acceptable for churches to be teaching on Sunday. But I do worry that the government is beginning to sacrifice religious freedom to secular, liberal ideals in seemingly mundane ways: compelling religious organizations to enable their employees to be provided with contraception, requiring private individuals to provide goods and services that violate their consciences, and soon, I expect, requiring even churches to employ and accommodate (via, for instance, the rental of a church hall) individuals who flout their teachings.

I worry when so many of my friends and fellow Americans hear that the government aims to force people to do things that violate their deeply held religious beliefs and they… don’t care. Or worse, they fly to the defense of the government and demonize those targeted by it because the things that are to be done involve those most sacred of secular cows, contraception and abortion.

The fact is, there are slippery slopes all over the place. It’s quite fashionable to be concerned about government overreach insofar as it applies to email and phone records. But what about government overreach concerning what we believe and how our everyday lives reflect those beliefs?

I worry that we might not realize we’re on a slope until we’ve already slipped.

I want a president who will recognize the vital importance of real, full religious freedom and who will oppose policies that have the effect of limiting it.

— Capital Punishment and Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide—

Consistent with my desire to protect newly-conceived life, I also want to preserve the lives of the condemned, the sick, and the elderly. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: All human life is sacred – no matter its age or condition or station.

As capital punishment is primarily the purview of the states and execution for federal crimes is very rare, I don’t at all expect this issue to be a focus of the presidential campaign. Nor do I expect Euthanasia or Assisted Suicide (which I wrote about here) to make waves. But on all these counts, I’ll be looking to see what hints the candidates give.

I want a president who values human life in all of its stages – who, like me, opposes capital punishment, euthanasia, and assisted suicide. Most candidates, I imagine, will not join me in that across-the-board opposition. But at the very least, I plan to avoid candidates who speak of capital punishment with relish, or who dismiss the concerns that accompany euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Alright! That’s enough for tonight. (Do you see now why I couldn’t fit all my “hot stuff” into one post?) I hope you come back Monday next week for the remaining topics in this section: Immigration, Foreign and Military Policy, the Economy, the Environment, and Education. Have a great weekend!

~~~

Just as I have for Parts One and Two, allow me to close by clarifying two points. (I may do so at the end of each of these posts.)

  • First, though I prioritize the Church’s teachings in my own political decision-making, and though I used to lobby for the Church, I do not claim to speak for it. For the Church’s official positions on national-level policy questions, please see the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Some of the issues I discuss in this series will have a clear connection to those the USCCB advocates on. Others will not.
  • Second, though I may hold a degree in political science, I am no political scientist. I’m a stay-at-home mom who pays a greater-than-average attention to the news. Feel free to call me out on anything you think I’ve gotten wrong.

Thanks again for joining me. I hope to have you back next week for Part Four!

What This Catholic Wants in a President (And How the Candidates Measure Up) – Part Two

Welcome to Part Two of my (who-knows-how-many-parts) series:

These Walls - What This Catholic Wants in a President Part Two

Today’s post covers some of the qualities I want in a president and a few of the broad issues that impact many of the more specific, controversial ones. (And which, because they’re so broad, are perhaps the least well-connected to Church teaching on public policy matters. Be forewarned, Catholics: this one’s all me.)

For an introduction of the series and an explanation of how my Catholic faith has influenced my political outlook, please see Part One.

For discussions on some of those specific, controversial (and perhaps more interesting) issues, please come back tomorrow for Part Three.

But for today:

(I Consider Myself) Pragmatic on the Boring Basics

When I think about the qualities I want in a president, of course I want someone who’s intelligent, just, honest, deliberative, decisive, articulate, persuasive, and plain ol’ good.

That goes without saying, really.

But this year, given our current set of political realities, I’m also looking for a few more particular qualities in a presidential candidate:

  • I want one to whom bipartisanship is not a dirty word – one who refrains from demonizing those he disagrees with and who understands the political necessity of working with members of the other party.
  • I want one with substantial political experience.
  • I want one who is forward-thinking – one who is more interested in long-term, real solutions than temporary fixes.

Now let’s go down that list.

Bipartisanship. As far as I’m concerned, the biggest elephant in the room of national politics is the disdain with which the president and members of Congress regard members of the opposite party. Not to mention the disdain shown by Average Joes on the (physical and virtual) street!

I’m so weary of it.

I’m not the kind of impractical idealist who thinks that everyone ought to just start getting along, already – maybe join hands and sing a verse or two of Kumbaya. I know that there are real, important differences in our policy positions and political aims. I know that there was no golden age of bipartisan cooperation in Washington. And I know that some eras were much worse than our own. (Involving, for instance, actual, physical brawls on the floor of Congress.)

But I wish voters would stop rewarding politicians who make their names by bashing the other side into the ground. Such behavior is juvenile and unproductive and (worse yet) damaging to our democracy.

I also wish people would stop assuming the worst of each other. Few people are so selfish, so mean-spirited as to actively pursue an agenda that sets out to harm everybody else. No — people really, truly have different ideas as to what government should be doing and which policies help people the most. Let’s disagree. Let’s have good debates on which policies make the most sense. But let’s not assume that those who disagree with us mean to do ill.

In short, I want a president who acts like a grown-up in his relations with other politicians. I want one who refrains from demonizing those he disagrees with and who understands the political necessity of working with members of both parties.

Experience. I want a president who has actually had some practice in doing the above.

I want someone who’s shown that he can navigate the treacherous path of legislating and governing: someone who has had substantial experience in the political meat grinder, who’s shown that he can achieve legislative/policy successes, and preferably one who comes from a politically divided state. (Hello Ohio, Florida, and Michigan!) I worry that a candidate from a more lopsidedly-Republican or Democratic state will be ill-equipped to deal with a divided Washington.

I do not want a presidential candidate who is new to politics. It is hard to get legislation passed and to govern effectively, and I don’t think we should assume that any ol’ admirable person can pull it off.

Selfishly, perhaps, I especially don’t want a Republican candidate who’s a novice to politics – I think the last thing the Republican Party needs is a president who’s fresh meat to the opposition. (Sorry, Mr. Carson and Ms. Fiorina. Sorry-not-sorry, Mr. Trump.)

(By the way, I think inexperience was a large part of why President Obama had such a hard time in his first term: he was a one-term senator from an overwhelmingly liberal state. He simply wasn’t equipped to work effectively in Washington.)

I also have no interest in a guy (or gal) who proclaims his intention to go in and change Washington! Because that’s a load of nonsense – the president is going to land where he lands, and he can’t change the landscape. All he can do is try to find his way through it.

Long-term thinking. One of my biggest gripes about politicians lately – and really, the public who feeds them – is that they function in the short-term. Almost all the time.

Everything is about the next election cycle or the next budget extension or the projected amount of cash to be shelled out in the next five years. There’s (little to) no long-term planning.

But as any responsible adult will tell you regarding their private affairs (saving for the down payment, retirement, home repair, college) – it pays to think about the future.

Yet we don’t ask our politicians to think about it. We’re content to let our infrastructure crumble if it means we stick with a lower gas tax. We attempt military interventions with as little force and expense as possible, preferring to serve as a prop rather than a means to a solution. We agree to only the bare minimum of social supports, which trap people in poverty rather than enabling them to escape it.

I want a president who is more forward-thinking than that, one who is more interested in long-term, real solutions than temporary fixes.

Moving on, now, to two broad issues that impact pretty much all of the others we wrestle with in politics: size of government and taxes.

At the root of much of our political discord and division, I see a fundamental disagreement over how large government should be and what it’s even for. And I don’t think the division necessarily breaks down cleanly between Republicans and Democrats. The Republican side, at least, is far messier than politicians would have us believe.

So let’s ask that broad philosophical question, shall we? How big should our national government be and what sort of roles should it play? I think I probably reflect the diversity of the Republican Party in the sense that I like the idea of a small government, but I’m conflicted as to what that means, in practice.

I know people (like my wonderful husband) who are essentially libertarian on this count: they think government should provide for the national defense and the basic legal and (infra)structural framework on which we depend, but that’s pretty much it. To them, the national government should not involve itself in matters of education, social welfare, environment, etc. Maybe the states should, maybe they shouldn’t – it depends on the issue. (Think: Ron Paul.)

On the other end of the Republican spectrum you have the interventionist, America-as-the-greatest-power crowd. (I generalize, of course.) To them, our government is a powerful tool that should be used to secure American interests and ideals abroad – and maybe at home too. (Look at the second Bush administration for a good representation of this mindset. Think about the Middle East, but also think about No Child Left Behind and President Bush’s legacy in Africa.)

As for me, I suppose I tend to the second, and probably go further. I want our government to eliminate waste, to function efficiently, to be really smart about how it goes about its business, but I also want it to be committed to efforts abroad, provide a basic safety net for Americans in need, and help to secure better futures for American individuals, businesses, and communities.

So what do I want from a president in terms of size-of-government speak? I want a president who tends to smaller government and appreciates the need to use it very, very carefully, but who concedes that government, realistically, has a lot of work to do. I have no use for a candidate who’s in a competition to see how itsy-bitsy he (or she) can shrink the government.

Now. That question, obviously, has got to be followed with one on taxes.

And this is maybe the issue where I differ most from the average Republican. Because I think you ought to first figure out what you want government to do, then figure out what kind of tax revenues will support that work. And then government should, you know, actually take in enough in taxes to do what you want it to do.

(In practice, I think politicians should only be willing to support new programs that they would be willing to raise taxes for. I think programs and policies should live and die on their own merit — not as a trade-off on something else.)

Though I disagree with them, I’m not bothered by the libertarian sort who want to slash taxes along with the size and responsibilities of government. There’s logic and consistency there. But I’m really annoyed by more mainstream Republicans who seem to want government to do a fair number of things and yet insist that taxes should still be cut. Nobody wants to pay higher taxes – I get it. But we should be grown-up enough to acknowledge that bridges and roads and schools and Medicare and military endeavors cost money. You can’t have it both ways.

That goes for presidential candidates too. I don’t want a candidate who’s going to beat the “lower taxes” drum right now. I just don’t see that philosophy going anywhere at the moment. I might respect a candidate who beats that drum along with one on cutting out half the government, but I don’t agree with him (or her). As I said before, I think that government, realistically, has a lot of work to do. I want a candidate who will bite the bullet and acknowledge that that work has to be paid for somehow.

I toned it down somewhat (believe it or not), but personally, my primary theme these days regarding what I want in a president is essentially: grown-up, grown-up, grown-up. I want a president who’s more grown-up than the tit-for-tat, exclusionary, complaining, bashing batch of politicians we’ve suffered lately. I want to move on from that behavior – to move forward.

Most simply, I want a candidate who can win and a president who can function.

~~~

Just as I did yesterday, allow me to close by clarifying two points. (I may do so at the end of each of these posts.)

  • First, though I prioritize the Church’s teachings in my own political decision-making, and though I used to lobby for the Church, I do not claim to speak for it. For the Church’s official positions on national-level policy questions, please see the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Some of the issues I discuss in this series will have a clear connection to those the USCCB advocates on. Others will not.
  • Second, though I may hold a degree in political science, I am no political scientist. I’m a stay-at-home mom who pays a greater-than-average attention to the news. Feel free to call me out on anything you think I’ve gotten wrong.

Thanks again for joining me. I hope to have you back here tomorrow for Part Three!

What This Catholic Wants In a President (And How the Candidates Measure Up) – Part One

Welcome to my very first series!

These Walls - What This Catholic Wants in a President

I’m excited to be undertaking this little project – something of a departure from most of my recent posts, which have waxed sentimental on home and love and my three beautiful little boys.

These Walls - What This Catholic Wants in a President Part One - 1

Sniff, sniff. Maybe it’s the pregnancy hormones.

Anyway, this series is not a departure from my most recent post, nor will it be surprising to anyone who’s clicked over to this tab.

This week you’ll be getting three posts from me on the topic:

  • Tonight I give you Part One, in which I describe where I come from, politically, and explain why my Catholic faith has had a major influence on my political outlook.
  • Tomorrow you’ll get Part Two, in which I’ll discuss some of the qualities I want in a president, the kind of experience I want him or her to have had, and a few broad issues (government size, taxes, bipartisan cooperation) that tend to have an impact on the more specific, exciting ones.
  • Friday you’ll get Part Three, in which I’ll get into those more specific, exciting political issues – ones like abortion, immigration, the environment, etc.

Beginning next week, and going on for however long I have the stomach for it, I’ll be periodically posting my thoughts on how the individual candidates stack up to my little (okay, long) list of qualifications. I doubt I’ll get to all of them (sooo… maaany… caaandidates…), but I hope to get to most, including all of the frontrunners.

Thanks for joining me today! I hope you’ll come back to check out the rest of the series.

~~~

As a refresher to long-time readers and an introduction to newer ones, let me start by sketching out why this stay-at-home mom makes a habit of writing about politics. And Catholicism. And the meeting of the two.

First and foremost, I grew up in a political family who happened to be Catholic. (Not the other way around.)

My Granddad, who has been involved in Republican politics for most of his life, served as a local elected official through most of my childhood. My aunts and uncles served as treasurers and campaign managers on Granddad’s and others’ campaigns, and we all pitched in on election days. My childhood memories are full of political fundraisers, campaign signs, parades, and the Republican booth at the county fair. It remains rare for us to have a family gathering in which politics isn’t discussed.

In college, I majored in political science. After graduation, I worked for the federal government. Later, I worked as a lobbyist.

And through it all, ever so gradually, my Faith grew more important to me.

In high school, I defended the Church – and especially her position on abortion – from precocious friends who delighted in the debate. In college, I was exposed to devout Catholics (some of them seminarians) who were far more grounded in the Faith than I was. I was challenged by professors (representing a range of religions and political persuasions) who expected logical, well-formed arguments. I interned for an organization that represented the Church’s positions on political matters. I wrote my thesis on why and how the faithful American Catholic fits neatly into neither political party.

As a young professional, though I worked a very staid, governmentish government job, I dabbled in buzzing, what-do-you-do, who-do-you-know Washington. And I was sorely tempted by it. Ultimately, though, I found my place advocating on behalf of the Church, for the poor and the immigrant and those whose religious freedom was under threat. I remained there for over five years, until full-time motherhood beckoned.

~~~

I may be a lifelong Republican, born into a solidly, actively Republican family, but I wouldn’t say I’m your typical Republican. (As if any member of the party of Lincoln and Reagan and Tea Partyers and Pro-Lifers and farmers and Wall Street’ers can really be called ‘typical’.)

Because first and foremost, I’m a Catholic. And that designation will always mean more to me than that of ‘Republican.’

For one, my Faith forms and encapsulates my convictions on God and goodness and justice and salvation and eternity. (And really, what can be more important than those things?)

For another, political parties change their stripes all the time. What was liberal becomes conservative, what was conservative becomes populist, what was popular becomes unpopular. Polls change, trends change, issue positions slip and slide all over the place. But the Church – and the Truths she defends – they remain steady.

So if I attach myself to a thing so of-this-world as a political party at the expense of the Truths and rights and wrongs of particular issues and particular candidates – well then, I think I’ve erred, not just logically, but morally.

So I no longer go down the list and think that anyone with an (R) after their name is good enough. I no longer look for my crop of political priorities in the platform of the Republican Party.

Instead, I start with the fundamental Truth that underlies the Church’s position on most of the issues that people consider ‘political’: All human life is sacred.

All human life is sacred – no matter its age or condition or station.

That means the unborn baby at risk of abortion, the pregnant woman with no financial or emotional support, the child growing up in poverty, the black man unjustly targeted by police, the police officers who risk their lives for the safety of their communities, the undocumented immigrant, the refugee abroad, the serviceman completing his third tour, the murderer on death row, the cancer patient living out her remaining days in hospice care – all of their lives are sacred.

And I’m obliged to favor policies that respect the importance of those lives.

So that’s what I try to do. And that’s what I want ‘my’ presidential candidate to do – because yes, I want a president who reflects my values.

Why, you might ask, do I still identify as a Republican when I no longer agree to always toe the Republican line? I suppose it’s because I still want a place in our imperfect, limited political system. (And specifically, I want to be able to vote in primaries.) The fact remains that we have just two major political parties in this country and most anyone who wants to make a difference has to choose one or the other. Between the two, the answer for me is still clearly: R.

~~~

To close, allow me to clarify two points:

  • First, though I prioritize the Church’s teachings in my own political decision-making, and though I used to lobby for the Church, I do not claim to speak for it. For the Church’s official positions on national-level policy questions, please see the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Some of the issues I discuss in this series will have a clear connection to those the USCCB advocates on. Others will not.
  • Second, though I may hold a degree in political science, I am no political scientist. I’m a stay-at-home mom who pays a greater-than-average attention to the news. Feel free to call me out on anything you think I’ve gotten wrong.

Thanks again for joining me. I hope to have you back here tomorrow!

These Walls - What This Catholic Wants in a President Part One - 2