The GOP Left Me

For several years now, I have been saying I parted political company with the Republican Party because of Donald Trump.

But watching how the GOP is handling the transition of power to President-elect Joe Biden, it is clear to me now it was the party that left me.

I would like to say it was all about Trump.

(Sarah Palin was the original canary in the coal mine, followed by election of obstructionist Tea Party candidates who don’t believe in education and governance at all.)

But he is just the latest iteration of a candidate who now represents a political party full of Representatives and Senators with J.D.s from Harvard and Yale who have suddenly become anti-intellectual.

Today’s iteration of a GOP politician and supporter was born because Trump brought the WWE audience into the party, and they want all the outraged spectacle of a cage match, even when they know the fight isn’t real. The rest of the Republican Party decided “gee, this is kind of fun to watch after all.”

For five years now, Trump has given this bread and spectacle circus to them with his fact-free rallies, “lock her up” chants and red MAGA hats that let’s his supporters know they are bound together as a group that knows who is with them or against them by sight.

It is like Hitler’s yellow stars in reverse. Rather than identifying those considered unworthy of the “fatherland,” a red hat confers “legitimate” citizenship with it. Those not wearing one should be approached with all caution…that person might be an evil, Satan worshiping Democrat.

I am not being over the top here; I have Catholic friends who believe this because they have been spiritually convicted by the far-right priests of my Church this is true. That anyone who votes a Democratic ticket has been seduced by a secular world that has committed a Holocaust on the unborn. The rest of life’s continuum and the dignity that should be conferred on all humankind often goes unmentioned.

It is incongruous but acceptable to believe abortion should be illegal but the death penalty is justified. That Jesus would favor one political party over another, even though he made it abundantly clear in the Gospels he wasn’t interested in worldly power at all.

The rest believe it because Tucker, or Laura or Hannity said so; because Pat Robertson or Alex Jones or Steve Bannon said so; because social media has developed algorithms that curate news based on clicks that assume a preference for certain subjects; because a friend of a friend of a friend they don’t even know posted something on Facebook and it was reposted by two other people.

In today’s Republican Party, truth doesn’t matter.

Apparently, the will of the majority of voters is insignificant too.

Rather than moderate its policies or enact legislation that is wanted by most U.S. citizens who have been certified by local Election Boards as qualified legal voters, the GOP has turned to packed, right-leaning courts to absolve it of the duty to actually think about what it means to govern freely and fairly in a nation as diverse as is the United States.

That’s just too much work for them any longer. It’s easier to be lazy, spout lies and demonize others than it is to legislate and govern.

It is the anti-intellectual response that defaults to emotional reactions as the only valid source of being, and divides a nation against itself.

Which is ironic, given it was a Republican President who warned of this very thing and sacrificed all – including his very life – to keep it from happening.

A President who believed it was immoral to look down upon and enslave another part of humanity based solely on the color of their skin.

A President who thought it immoral to base the economic well-being of others on such a travesty as slavery.

No, the GOP is no longer the Party of Lincoln. It isn’t even the party of Reagan.

It is still the party of Roger Ailes, Roger Stone and Newt Gingrich: a party of populist rhetoric and a hatred of those who they can’t hoodwink; a hatred of all those who bother to think for themselves at all and expect a functional government filled with other people who do the same.

People who learned things in their biology, history and literature classes that they have carried forward with them through their lives.

People who know there is a universe of verifiable truths because they see it in a greater universe created by some sort of ordered intelligence they may not name as God, but they work to understand.

The GOP was turned from the ideals of Lincoln and Reagan long ago.

It has now become a total capitulation and surrender to the Donald Trumps of this world: egotistical, narcissistic man-babies (and women) who cry foul if they can’t be the winner every time, whether they have demonstrated the character and competence that justifies their winning or not.

Even by those educated to know better.

Can’t We All Just Get Along

If Donald Trump ever had a true plan for governing this nation, it was simply to ensure he erased everything Barack Obama accomplished in his eight-year Presidency.

Now Trump will get a lesson in how it feels to watch everything you’ve done be abolished as Joe Biden announces his plans for tackling COVID, re-entering the World Health Organization, the Paris Climate Accord, overturning the Muslim ban and protecting DREAMERS.

Of course, Trump was motivated by a desire to erase from history the achievements of our country’s first Black President. He is a racist. If anything animated him besides fame, it is his hatred for anyone who isn’t white.

He is not dissimilar to friends I have who continue to vote GOP. They know individual Black people they like and accept because they confer on those people some of their own whiteness.

But Black or Brown people as a whole? Those are people to be demonized, labeled and held down.

And a Black person who has earned legitimate political authority and power, or fame and money in the corporate or entertainment world? They are to be especially loathed.

Someone I know from Church who was angry at Trump’s handling of COVID voted for him anyway. Why? Because Fox told her Biden was feeble and would end up being replaced by Kamala Harris, who is a “socialist.”

This is the same woman who bragged to me how much all the Black women in her Pilates class just adored her as a way of proving to me she didn’t have a racist bone in her body.

I ran this story by a Black woman lawyer I know. She just shook her head, rolled her eyes and said “Really?” This is something I imagine those Black women in that Pilates class would do.

I am not claiming to have tons of Black women friends. I do have a few with whom I lunch and have deep conversations about their lives and what life is like for them because of the color of their skin.

More importantly, I have a bi-racial great nephew. It is his future that concerns me, because as he grows older, instead of admiring how cute he is with his creamy complexion and expressive brown eyes, other white people will look at him instead with fear and suspicion.

They will not know his heart as I do, will not know his history of growing up and that those occasional flashes of anger he shows are for a white mother who chose her addiction over him and a black father he has never known.

They won’t care that he has grown up in small Texas towns, raised in a white environment but being constantly challenged by his white classmates who have been taught early to hate Black and Brown colored skin, taught to jeer at the sensitivity about himself his life circumstances have inculcated in him.

Most importantly, when he is grown and driving down the road and is pulled over for some infraction real or imagined, that Sheriff’s deputy really won’t care and will misinterpret him if he seems sullen or frustrated in that moment.

It is because we sort people by the color of their skin rather than accept them for their shared humanity that we are in the fix we are in.

It is because we brought Black people here in the cargo holds of ships in 1619 in chained enslavement that we are in the fix we are in. It is because we fought Brown skinned people for the right to live on this land we whites came to conquer with our sense of superior entitlement that we are in the fix we are in.

We have never dealt with the original sins of this nation, with the evil that they were. Now we have to reckon with what led us to hand the Presidency to someone as revolting as Donald Trump. A fascist and a bigot of the highest order.

Many people are thrilled in this moment because Joe Biden is our President-elect and Kamala Harris our Vice-President elect.

But no matter how much Biden calls on us to unify (and he should, loudly and often), it still falls on each of us to heed that call. To look past skin color, to deal with deep wounds and deeper inequities, to close our ears to partisan rhetoric designed to keep us divided as a nation.

It is up to each of us to decide we are all going to get along.

But it is past time for leaders from both political parties to model that cooperation for us.

Lincoln told us, paraphrasing the Bible, that a nation divided against itself cannot stand.

Trump came as close to anyone in our recent history at proving him right.

It is time now: time to stand or time to fall.

Place My Tears in Your Jar, Again

Where do old friendships

Go to die?

Who struck that first mortal wound?

Did it happen with one glancing blow,

Or was it the small things that flow

From decades of learning

Where to make that single pin prick;

And relentlessly doing it again and again

Until one sees it is time to pick

Up

And leave off

And never return.

Oh there was laughter enough.

Why else would one stay

And endure knowing

You were really cat’s play?

That the secrets shared

Were held in scorn.

That true tenderness

Would never be stored.

That the idea of sisterhood

Was all in your head.

That this nauseous feeling

Has replaced kinship instead.

That your own defects

Helped the bridge of friendship collapse.

So you search your own soul

For its flaws and it’s cracks.

And you find they are

Themselves large, they run deep.

And you question whether

You ever could keep

Love, from the taint

Of the world’s bitter heap.

So you cry out to the Lord,

And you seek and you seek

That merciful place of His heart

Crowned in thorns.

And you see just how much

He himself has in love borne.

So the clutch in your throat

Begins to relax,

And the beat of your heart

Starts to slow, and the cracks

Of your brokenness, slowly do mend

By His Spirit and grace.

And you look in the mirror

And finally you face

That you are not perfect.

But you see in your eye

A reflection of Him,

And the hope that won’t die.

Photo by Mareefe on Pexels.com

Can I Be A Good Catholic and Vote for Joe Biden?

I hope so, because I already did.

I did so knowing there are priests – especially here in the U.S. – who will say I have violated the doctrine of my faith as laid out in the Catechism of the Church with regard to the right to life of the unborn.

Yet never have I publicly or privately advocated for abortion. In fact, you can go through this blog and find several essays where I have distinctly said I believe life begins at conception, even before I became a Catholic.

It would have never been an option for me, because the idea of being pregnant to me means my child lives within me. Also because, as the by-product of an unwanted teen pregnancy, I know what abandonment feels like. I wish on no child the questioning of why your birth parents could not love you enough to put your needs before their own.

But if the Church wants me to respect the sanctity of human life, then I must do so in its totality – from conception through natural death.

In fact, it is the very growth of my Catholic spirituality that has led me to turn away from Republicans in the last election cycle and this one and vote a Democratic ticket.

Let’s start with the greatest threat to human life: climate change. If we don’t do something to rapidly reduce the human footprint of carbon in our atmosphere, our planet will die and we along with it. That is called suicide. Suicide, according to the Church, is a mortal – and unforgivable- sin.

Then there is COVID-19. I blame neither Donald Trump nor China for a naturally occurring phenomenon. But I do blame Trump for not following through on mitigation efforts like mask wearing, social distancing, hand-washing, universal testing, tracing and isolation/quarantine practices for controlling the spread of coronavirus.

With a herd immunity approach to this virus unless a safe vaccine is developed, it means a minimum of 60% of the country’s 331 million residents would have to become infected. That means 198.6 million of us would need to become infected. At a 3% death rate, that means nearly 6 million of us would die.

When the Nazis deliberately killed 6 million Jews, we called it a Holocaust and said it was evil.

So what am I supposed to call a government’s decision to not do everything in its power to reduce death to its populace in a time of pandemic? A decision that requires overburdened hospitals to practice triage and to choose younger patients over the elderly in deciding who gets admitted to hospital for life-saving treatment or not?

I certainly can’t call it respect for life, because it isn’t. And right now that government is led by a GOP President and a GOP Senate that can rush through a last minute Supreme Court nomination, but for months have refused to provide further relief to millions of unemployed in danger of losing their homes, their food security, their right to the dignity of work as more and more companies announce layoffs.

Nor can I continue to support a political party that supports taking immigrant babies from the arms of their parents, forever separating them because they were too lazy and disrespectful of the human condition to use a computer program to pair babies with their parents. There could have been an app for that. God knows we have a plethora of apps to track every ounce of our water intake, our food ingested, our calories burned.

But we couldn’t make one to be able to reunite children with parents because of their immigration status? Isn’t this government sanctioned human trafficking in babies and small children?

Does my Church – so fallible about its own accountability of the sexual abuse of children by priests and – yes – nuns – not consider what the Trump Administration has done with its immigration policies an equal moral failure?

So my Church insists I must make a Sophie’s choice – vote in the interests of the unborn or the already living.

This election I chose the latter. My choice to do so is between me and my God….and no one else. Not even the Pope himself.

Flags and Faith

Fondly I remember the July 4th holidays at the lake in Hamilton, IN, where I grew up throughout  most of the 60s. 

While it was hard to accomplish, we somehow executed a parade in a two-street town that would then loop around parts of the shoreline of the 800 acre lake, the 4th largest in the state. 

Flags flew and were waved everywhere. No one was a Republican or a Democrat: they were just your town or lakeside neighbor, celebrating the country we all held dear. 

We even had a water ski demonstration put on by the Hamilton Lake Ski Club. My neighbor, Tom, would borrow my crayons to make signs for the event. This was long before the era of glitter and glue that has now given way to slick posters you can design on your home computer. 

Of course there were barbecues and pontoon rides and sparklers at night. The kids from Ohio would sneak cherry bombs and firecrackers over the state line only 12 miles away. The Indiana kids would cross over the line and back to smuggle the 3.2 beer you could then buy in Ohio at age 18.  

We little kids drank root beer floats and captured fireflies in mason jars.

It all worked in a very old-fashioned, piece of Americana kind of way.

I am afraid it is an America that no longer exists, perhaps won’t exist ever again, because of the damage caused our democratic Republic these past five years.

Now, instead, you have Trump supporters gathered in super-spreader coronavirus events that are more about idolatry than ideology. 

Like the Jews in the desert, they have built themselves a golden calf to worship. And they claim they are the true patriots and defenders of religion.

As a former GOP voter, I kind of get it. I began voting GOP in the Reagan years when the good cheer of The Gipper meant Republicans could “do no harm,” even in the midst of an Iran-Contra scandal.  We were, after all, the Family Values party: God, Guns, and Country (not necessarily in that order.)

Democrats ceded faith and freedom as themes back then, and they have never fully reclaimed them.  Perhaps it is about time they do. 

Certain segments of the Democrat party will howl that they are atheists and  that they do not want religion mixed with their politics. But others might feel liberated to say they, too, are making decisions that are informed in part by their faith, that they pray over them, that they repent of them when they turn out to have unintended consequences. 

Repentance. Now that is one part of the faith tradition the Republican Party shuns. The part Donald Trump says he has never sought. 

This part of the faith: Democrats have it down cold. Even the non-Christians (although they prefer the terms like “accountability” and “transparency.”) They are all always asking for contrition by someone in the party somewhere for a decision made decades ago, when the public sentiment was different and the party seers didn’t see far enough ahead for how the stars might one day align in a constellation that would cause consternation. 

But doesn’t admitting your mistakes and saying “mea culpa” for them, then taking action to correct them, however long ago they occurred, reflect a more pure version of the Christianity of the Gospels, even when those making such atonement do not necessarily think of themselves as Christians?  Isn’t this the more moral and ethical path, if you consider yourself religious or just principled? 

Yet the Republicans claim they are the party of eternal truths, when they never look back to see to what their policies have laid waste. Like Pharaoh’s charioteers, Republicans drive their horses relentlessly forward, even if it might mean one day they drown the party in its entirety. 

What good, pray tell, will its judges do them then? When they have become flotsam and jetsam on the political sea?

So this is the challenge we Democrats face: not only to save our democratic Republic from the authoritarian challenge to power it currently faces, but to reclaim the narrative we have let Republicans assert for far too long: 

We ARE also a party of flags and faith. 

Of hope, charity and love, as well.