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

A Vote of No Confidence in the Republican Party

A week ago, I was feeling a punchy sort of delight in the wackiness of that particular moment in politics. I was noticing a strange phenomenon in my media consumption (social and otherwise): cohesion. A sense of togetherness, a shared purpose. Half the nation seemed to be biting its collective fingernails over a common bogeyman: Donald Trump.

I saw liberals pleading for their fellows to switch party affiliation so they could help select a more palatable Republican nominee. I saw conservatives pledging support for a third-party candidate or even (gasp!) the dreaded Hillary Clinton should Trump receive the Republican nomination. I read solid cases against him and detailed strategies for ensuring he lost the nomination. I saw #NeverTrump, #AnyoneButTrump, #StopTrump, and #MakeDonaldDrumpfAgain. I read virtually identical anti-Trump Facebook posts from my most liberal and my most conservative friends.

It seemed ironic to me that the thing to bring so many of us together across party and ideological lines was our shared horror at the thought of being governed by The Donald. Could Trump, in some backwards way, prove to be our nation’s great unifier after all? My poli-sci major brain was half-way giddy at the prospect.

Today, though, those feelings have evaporated. All I feel is dread.

I mourn the loss of Marco Rubio, my favorite of this year’s candidates. But more than that, I mourn the loss of the hope that somehow this race would turn around. That somehow the two-thirds of Republicans who disapprove of Trump would get it together well enough to settle on a strong, honorable candidate for the presidency. And that such a candidate would be able to work towards healing the Republican Party (and later, the country).

Today, those hopes seem lost.

More than that. Today, I think I’ve finally given up hope in the Republican Party. And that is so hard for me to admit.

I grew up in the Party, wearing my Republican granddad’s campaign shirts at parades and fundraisers, urging my elementary school classmates to support George H.W. Bush’s campaign and my college classmates to support his son’s. I defended Reagan and Bush and Dole and Bush and McCain and Romney.

But I think I’m done now.

I’m reminding myself that politics is, at its core, nothing more than the method by which differently-minded people work out how to govern together. And that political parties are nothing more than tools to make that process function more efficiently.

As groups of (ever-changing) people, Parties’ principles, the ideas that bond them together, shift over time:

There is nothing immutable about the way the two parties currently line up. Republicans used to be the big-government progressive party, formed in opposition to slavery and pushing to remodel the South after the civil war; they have also been the small-government party, not only now, but in opposition to the New Deal in the 1930s. Democrats were once the small-government party, opposing those who wanted a more powerful federal government and defending the interests of white southerners against Washington; now they are famous as the big-government party, pushing federal anti-poverty programmes in the 20th century and government involvement in health care in the 21st.

Political parties are not religions. They are not nationalities. They are not perfect and they are not permanent. They are simply groups of like-minded people who band together in the hope of having more of a say in how they are governed.

I am not obliged to support any one of them.

In this time of Donald Trump, this time of discontent and proud disloyalty and redrawn lines, who can say what the Republican Party stands for anymore?

I have no confidence that the Party that will be on the ballot in November will in any way reflect my values or my priorities. So no, I won’t pledge to support the Party’s eventual nominee. I’m tired of feeling bound to a group that seems more scattered, more angry, more dysfunctional every year.

I think I’m done now.

These Walls - A Vote of No Confidence in the Republican Party

 

(Not) Watching the Debate, Political Parties and Mr. Fluffy Puffy, and Staying Close to the Stories: 7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 38)

Seven Quick Takes Friday

—1—

I feel like if I’m to publish anything this morning, it should really be a review of last night’s GOP presidential debate. I mean, along with the mush and the madness that comes from being a mother, that’s what I do here, right?

Alas, I didn’t watch it.

By the time the evening came around, I was just so tired from the pregnancy and the parenting and the cold and what I now suspect is an ear infection, that I just had no energy to get excited about the debate.

So I lay down on the sofa to relax a while with my smartphone, I checked Twitter, promptly got all jealous of the people who were tweeting the debate, turned on the TV in spite of myself, saw about five minutes of the melee… and fell asleep.

Which is why I’m writing this 7 Quick Takes at one in the morning: When I fall asleep on the sofa, I have a heck of a time getting back to sleep in bed.

—2—

Let’s show you some images from our life here lately, shall we?

This was yesterday morning. The bigger one was a very, very fast cheetah and the littler one was… I don’t know… an excited toddler? I should have kept the video going another few seconds: As soon as I stopped it, little brother tackled big brother.

The two are becoming quite the pair now that their biggest brother is at school all day.

These Walls - 7QT38 - 2

—3—

The 4-year-old has retained his ridiculously long-lasting obsession with setting up “museums” all over the place. He already had a big bin of dinosaurs and another of animals with which to re-create The Museum of Natural History (a la Night At the Museum) when he made his Christmas wish known: He needed people. So the little guy asked (a very confused-looking) Santa for people for his museum (namely: Teddy Roosevelt, Attila the Hun, Abraham Lincoln, and Sacajawea) and thankfully, dear Santa delivered.

Kiddo had me take some pictures of him with (part of) his collection the other day:

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—4—

Poor biggest brother – I don’t have as many photos of him these days. But here’s one from a few nights ago. The older two carefully spread out a few pillowcases on the floor, placed throw pillows on top of them, sat down, and then the oldest said: “Mommy, look! We’re playing rug!”

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Creative kids, they are.

—5—

I realized the other day that I may well have taken zero – zero “baby bump” pictures this whole pregnancy. Mostly, it just never occurred to me to do so. But also, every suitable mirror has been surrounded by junk for so many months that I probably (subconsciously?) didn’t want to bother with it.

Anyway, I figured I should have at least one such picture before baby comes, so I cleared away the obstructions from the front of one mirror (but not the background – sorry!) And… here you go:

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37 weeks, 3 days. To be precise.

I feel like I’m a little smaller this go-round. (Though I have nothing to show you by way of comparison, because I’m not well enough organized to know where those photos are at 1:30 in the morning.)

That “smaller” feeling is ironic given that last week the sono tech told me that Baby Girl is going to “break the bank” insofar as weight is concerned. (My babies were 8 lbs 10 oz, 8 lbs 15 oz, and 9 lbs 1oz. If this one keeps on her current trajectory, we’re looking at the upper 9’s. Ugh.)

—6—

I read a really thought-provoking article the other day. As I put it on Facebook:

This was fascinating to read – probably because it affirmed several observations I’d already made. 😉 But seriously, a huge reason why Republicans and Democrats get annoyed with each other is that they imagine the other as a mirror of themselves. And they’re not. Democrats are less ideological than Republicans imagine them to be; Republicans are less policy-oriented than Democrats assume them to be. The two parties don’t simply hold different positions – they ARE different.

In other news, my 5-year-old has named his coat “Mr. Fluffy Puffy.”

I kinda-sorta wrote on the subject (the difference between the parties – not the coat) a few years ago, in one of my first posts on the blog.

—7—

To close, here’s another compelling piece I read this week. Laura, of Mothering Spirit, shares her heartbreak over learning her twins’ lives may be in danger. The situation is quite serious, and I’m sure she and her babies could use our prayers. (Please pray!)

But what really struck me was Laura’s recognition that even these very personal, intimately painful struggles are connected to bigger, older stories.

There it is: quiet and simple and true. The deepest memory, the of-course of the ancient story, the same anger and despair, the fearful frustration of the wild unknown.

Read the whole thing for a much better relation of what she means than I’ve presented here. I’ll just add that when I find myself worried or scared or frustrated or overwhelmed – and then I have the good fortune to recall a story, or to have an image come to mind, of other people throughout time who have experienced similar struggles – I am heartened. I feel less alone. I feel more connected to other people, indeed to humanity itself, and to God.

I wish I remembered those connections more frequently, and I’m glad Laura has the comfort of doing so in this very trying time.

~~~

Have a wonderful weekend, all. And please be sure to stop over to Kelly’s to read everybody else’s Quick Takes for the week.

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

Catching Up: In Our Home And On My Mind

My posts have lately been too few and far between, so I thought I’d do some catching up on what we’ve been up to in our home. And on what I’ve been thinking on a slew of random, recent current events. Maybe that way I can settle my mind well enough to tackle properly focused, one-subject posts here soon!

That Blasted Knee

As far as home and family go, my mother-in-law (who lives with us) had her knee replaced in mid-February. Thankfully, the surgery went well and she suffered no complications. My husband’s brother flew in from Minnesota the very day Hilde came home from the hospital to help her kick off (no pun intended) her recovery. It was quite the busy week and I honestly have no idea how I could have managed it by myself. THANK GOODNESS my brother-in-law was here to help.

Besides being relieved for Hilde’s sake that her blasted knee has finally been fixed, we’re all so glad that the surgery no longer looms before us. I feel like I spent half the winter worried that we’d pass on our illness-of-the-moment to Hilde and the other half worried that we’d get some illness that we’d then pass on to her. The surgery could have been postponed! We could have been left without any help during her recovery! It was a nail-biter to the bitter end: Hilde beat a cold just in time and we had a snowstorm the night before the surgery, prompting my husband to hit the driveway with his snow-blower at 4:00 am so he could get her to the hospital in time.

Not the same storm -- but close.

Not the same storm — but close.

But! Now we’re past it and I want to CELEBRATE! Cue the margaritas and the music! Let down your hair! And LET’S BRING ON THE PLAYDATES! GERMS NO LONGER SCARE ME! Your child has a runny nose and a hacking cough? I don’t care! Get us sick! As long as we get some social interaction and views beyond these here walls before we’re felled by the sickness du jour, it will have been worth it!

[Would you believe that within two hours of typing these words, my son started throwing up? Perhaps I should have been more specific: Cold germs no longer scare me. Stomach bug germs most definitely do!]

But… My Back

So we get past the surgery and my brother-in-law’s visit and we get (mostly) back to our usual habits and routines. Then, less than a week later (during which we’d suffered through something like three snow/ice storms), I was just the kind of stupid, out-of-shape idiot to swing my ginormous baby (in his heavy, carrier car seat) into the middle seat of our minivan and WHAM. I injured my back badly enough that three days later I was pretty much immobile, unable to think of anything other than the pain, even while taking painkillers and muscle relaxers.

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Mr. Massive

But the meds and the heating pad and time ultimately did their jobs (and my saintly mother came to help me so I could put off carrying Massive Baby for as long as possible), so by last Tuesday, I was pretty much back to normal. On Wednesday, I felt good.

Until some lady drove her car into ours.

We were parked in a grocery store parking lot – me crouched in the rear of our van, about to unbuckle the boys from their car seats – when a woman drove into us, head-on. She’d been trying to park, so the collision wasn’t that fast or that serious, but I was knocked over and my muscles knew it.

Blah, blah, blah… enough with my sob stories. The bottom line is that I was stiff and sore for a few days AND I’M REALLY READY FOR THIS SEASON TO BE OVER.

Come on, spring! Come on, activity! Come on, season of not being invalids!

(Alright, I think I’m done using ALL CAPS for the rest of this post.)

On Maybe / Kind of / Almost Being Considered A Smart Blog

Back in January, I told you that I’d been nominated for a Sheenazing Award in the “Smartest Blog” category. And then I never fessed up to the fact that I did not end up winning said award. I’m sorry for that. I should have updated the kind souls who voted for me.

But I’m not sorry that I didn’t win. Because I shouldn’t have! Mama Needs Coffee won, and I’m glad for it, because Jenny is one of the smartest things out there. She’s witty, she’s funny, and she writes about tough issues like the Church’s teachings on sex and marriage with great bravery and clarity.

I’m so proud that These Walls was listed alongside blogs like hers and like I Have to Sit Down, Unequally Yoked, Through A Glass Brightly, etc. It’s a great list to be on.

On Current Events

Maryland is one of several states currently considering legislation that would legalize physician-assisted suicide. I think it’s a terribly scary idea. Such legislation is problematic on many counts, but the one that gets to me most is a “what if?” related to the idea of becoming burdensome. None of us want to become a burden to our loved ones in our illness or old age, but what if we really had a choice about it? What if physician-assisted suicide were to be legalized? What if it became normalized, even to the point of being routinely undertaken? What if people started to choose it, not because they don’t want to suffer, but because they don’t want to become a burden to the people they love? What if we started to expect our loved ones to choose physician-assisted suicide so they don’t become burdens to us?

Learn more about the legislation at Maryland Against Physician Assisted Suicide. And if you’re a Maryland Catholic who hasn’t done so already, contact your legislators via the Maryland Catholic Conference’s Catholic Advocacy Network.

My husband and I had a big argument the other day over the 47 Republican Senators’ letter to the government of Iran. I thought the letter was shameful and inappropriate; he thought it was a proper response to President Obama’s negotiations with that country. I like Michael Gerson’s take on the thing. (Just as I like his take on most subjects.) Brennan and I ended our political debate on the subject with a huffy sort of agreement: though we’re both Republican, neither of us will even consider donating to the party right now. He refuses to support one wing of it; I refuse to support the other.

The Diane Rehm Show’s treatment of the above-mentioned letter provided me with one of my favorite quotes ever, I think: “If your first reaction to hearing of problems of partisanship is to blame the other party, you’re not helping the situation.” (David Rothkopf) This has sort of been my thing, politically, for the past few years. I think people are right to call Washington broken, I just wish they’d recognize their own role in making it so.

And Hilary Clinton totally should have used a State Department email address for official business. Totally. Not only does choosing a personal account over a government one show disregard for the spirit of the rules (and maybe the letter), but it shows a serious lack of foresight. How in the world could she not have expected this to become an issue?

Oh, and this isn’t related to the political kind of current events, but it is current: I saw The Drop Box. The movie was beautiful and powerful and gave me so much to think about. However, I didn’t like that it was immediately followed (and preceded, actually) by a Focus on the Family-driven presentation on the film. That approach may work for audiences sitting in (evangelical) churches, but it felt odd for a public movie theater. As a Catholic, I found the tone of the presentation unfamiliar and (though I know it probably wasn’t, really) artificial. To a truly secular viewer, I imagine it would have been off-putting. The film would have been more powerful if it were presented on its own.

Well, that’s it for now! See you back here soon!

Full Disclosure

As I plan to write about some political and religious issues on this blog, I thought it would be useful to provide a little background on the evolution of my outlook in these areas. (I have all these country songs running through my head as I write this: “Where I Come From,” “God blessed the broken road that led me straight to you,” etc.)

I thought this little ‘disclosure of my biases,’ as I think of it, would be useful for a few reasons: (1) Political and religious subjects can be pretty touchy. (No surprise there.) (2) Our opinions on them usually have a strong basis in our own life experiences. (3) I aim to be as fair, open, and even-handed on this blog as I can be. And (4) I personally prefer news and commentary sources that either (a) represent both sides of an issue equally well or (b) openly disclose their opinions and make no pretense of impartiality. So I kind of thought I’d cover all my bases.

But before I go any further, let me say that this post makes me nervous and I had a hard time writing it. (Which is part of the reason I wrote so few posts this past week. I was trying to take this one in a different direction and it stumped me.) The words below represent my past and my thought processes and my faith, family, and friends, and it’s all very personal. It’s also probably a big ol’ case of TMI. But I felt like I needed to get all this out there before I proceed with a bunch of other posts I have lined up in my head.

So…

I was raised Catholic in that I regularly attended mass with my mother and I was provided with a religious education through our parish. But my father is not Catholic and there was little mention of faith in our (very happy) home. These days when I read blogs that mention a devotion to this saint, or a fondness for that novena, or a special attachment to such-and-such prayer, or a thousand little ways to live out the liturgical seasons, I feel kind of lost. Like I don’t fully fit into a community that should be my own. Yes, I’m Catholic. Yes, I love Christ, I am devoted to His Church, and faithful to its teachings. But no, I’m not familiar with all the trappings of my Faith.

While there wasn’t much discussion of religion in my family, there was a lot about politics. My grandfather was a local elected official, so I was exposed to campaigns and political chatter from a young age. Various family members worked on Granddad’s campaigns and we all helped on Election Day (which was just about my favorite day of the year when I was a child). My family was (and remains) very Republican in a very Democratic state, so I was instilled with a strong attachment to conservative ideals, but no illusion that these ideals were universal. (Rather, I understood that they were uncommon and needed to be defended.)

In my (public) high school I had a great group of smart, articulate, and religiously/politically diverse friends. And we liked a good debate. As the sole practicing Catholic and one of the only conservatives, I became the defender of all things Catholic and some things conservative. Just as my family’s experience as members of a minority party had prodded my attachment to conservatism, so my lunch-table debate experience bonded me to my Faith. Not that I understood it very well: eight years of Sunday school and one year of confirmation class do not a well-informed Catholic make. But my own little role as Defender of the Faith prompted me to research, ask questions, contemplate, and pray.

This all set the stage nicely for my next step: a political science major at a Catholic college. More lunch table discussions, this time with classmates and seminarians who had been raised in devoutly Catholic families, gave me glimpses of the depth and beauty awaiting me in the Church. Philosophy and theology classes helped me to better understand it. And my political science courses, not to mention informal discussions with friends and professors, gave me an appreciation for the broader context in which we live out our religious ideals. I had always been interested in the convergence of differing ideas; in college I became particularly interested in the convergence of politics and religion.

I wrote my senior thesis on “The American Catholic and the Two Political Parties,” which explored the poor fit between the Church’s teachings on matters of public policy and the ideological break-out of today’s American political parties. I also completed an internship with a Catholic organization that advocated on behalf of the Church’s public policy interests. Several years later, after a stint with the federal government, I returned to the organization to work as a lobbyist for the Church.

There, I was tasked with representing the Church’s positions on social justice matters, which included a wide range of issues related to poverty, housing, health care, and immigration. (Along with a few others.) Most of the positions were what Americans would call “liberal.” Which was a real challenge for me. Coming from a conservative background, I was comfortable with the Church’s teachings on abortion and marriage. I was comfortable promoting school choice. But the Church’s social justice teachings made me uncomfortable. I didn’t necessarily think they were wrong; it’s just that they challenged the political ideals under which I was raised and so they caused discomfort.

Oh, what a learning and growing experience it was for me. I read and I talked to people and I prayed.  I began to gain something of an understanding of people who faced challenges that I never had – people who struggled to feed their children and keep a roof over their heads, people who came to this country seeking a better life, people whose poor health or poor treatment by others or whose own poor decisions had stymied their chances of making it on their own – and even people who struggled to be able to function in society at all. I was changed and I was humbled.

I was grateful for the opportunity to give voice to these people’s concerns – and also for what I felt was an opportunity to bring people closer to Christ through this work of His Church. I feel like a cheesy ball of mush writing this, but I had so many moving experiences doing this work: I huddled in a group of elderly immigrant women and tried to convey to them (through our language barrier) that their Church was there for them. I spoke to crowds at parishes and pleaded with them to connect their own preferred cause for the “least of these” with another that was more challenging for them. I testified before lawmakers and told them, time and again, that all human life has value, regardless of its age or station.

Perhaps I have digressed. What I’m trying to explain is that, yes, I come from a particular place on the political spectrum. I get the conservative thing. But I have also been emerged in an unfamiliar (liberal) political territory, and I got to know it too. I feel richer for the experience.

When I was a lobbyist, I found that I could lobby more effectively when I put myself in the shoes of my opponents – imagining and even empathizing with their motivations. I think the same holds true when you’re discussing a difficult subject. All too often these days, people seem to regard consideration of and empathy with “the other side” as a sign of weakness, even foolishness. But it is such an asset. Sure, it helps you to build a solid case for your own cause. But more importantly, it helps you to explore your own opinions and motivations and be sure that you’re on the right course.

When you get together a group of people who all bring this kind of consideration to their conversation – well, that kind of discussion moves everyone forward in understanding. That is what I feel my background has prepared me for and that is what I hope to encourage with this blog.