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Lorelei and I had the opportunity this week to join in a local march in support of refugees and immigrants.  This peaceful and patriotic event began in Market Square–Knoxville’s downtown gathering spot–with a silent vigil.  Then all of us–over 1,100 people, in the middle of a weekday!–marched to the City-County Building for a brief rally before a delegation carried letters opposing the President’s Executive Order to the lawmakers within.

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As we made the 25-minute drive from our home to downtown Knoxville, I made sure Lorelei understood what we were marching about.  We talked about the signs she had made and what they meant.  We talked about the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy, and the Beatitudes, and the Sermon on the Mount.  I told her that when we turn away immigrants and refugees, we are turning away Christ.

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But we didn’t just talk about religion–we had a civics lesson too.  We talked about the principles our country is founded on, and how it isn’t unpatriotic to try to hold the country to those values.  We talked about the importance of letting our representatives know our position on this and other issues, and on how people coming together can bring about change.  I told her about Yassin Terou, a Syrian refugee who found success here as a restaurateur and has made it a point to give back to his adopted community.  We talked about the message on the Statue of Liberty and about the American dream.

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This wasn’t Lorelei’s first protest–she has taken part in many a March for Life–but this is the first time she knew what she was protesting.  She’s 12 years old, with little patience for or experience with being silent, but she made me proud.  She remained quiet, paid attention, liked pointing out all the signs (she was our sign-maker), and enjoyed the chanting we did at the end of the march.

Lorelei carried this sign:

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It was inspired by the lyrics of the Marty Haugen song.  It’s slightly heretical for singing in church in my opinion, but some of the words seemed tailor-made for this occasion:

Let us build a house where love can dwell
and all can safely live . . .
here the love of Christ shall end divisions.
All are welcome, all are welcome,
all are welcome in this place . . . 
Let us build a house where hands will reach
beyond the wood and stone
to heal and strengthen, serve and teach,
and live the Word they’ve known.
Here the outcast and the stranger
bear the image of God’s face;
let us bring an end to fear and danger.
All are welcome, all are welcome,
all are welcome in this place.

My favorite part of the gathering happened almost at the end, when we recited The New Colossus together.

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

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I can’t recite that under the most ordinary of circumstances without crying, and those were not ordinary circumstances.

After that, much of the crowd dispersed, chanting “This is what democracy looks like!” And it is.

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On November 2, 2016 I joined Pantsuit Nation, an online community of Hillary supporters.  The group, now almost four million strong, comprised people of many different backgrounds and beliefs, united by our support of Hillary and fear of a Trump presidency.

I posted an introduction after joining, which you can read here.  And I was overwhelmed and overjoyed by the welcome I received.  Over 3,600 people liked my post, and there were 412 comments.  Many people asked for permission to share what I had said elsewhere.  I was showered with love and affirmation, not only from fellow pro-life Catholics but from people of every imaginable ideological stripe, including many, many pro-choice women.  After a year of feeling adrift and alone, it was a heady sensation.

Too bad it didn’t last.

It turned out that without Hillary to hold us together this great movement of women is breaking down along tired and predictable lines, and those of us who are both pro-life and progressive are left out in the cold once more.  The New Wave Feminists, erstwhile official partners of the upcoming Women’s March on Washington, are now officially NOT.  Pantsuit Nation now overflows with post after post of women sharing their positive experience with abortion.

I felt this backlash coming and it’s one reason I’ve mostly only lurked on the pages of the state and local offshoots of Pantsuit Nation.  I’m so tired of being marginalized for one reason or another.  I am sick at heart over the notion that there is only one kind of feminist–our pro-life feminist foremothers be damned!–that the right to unlimited abortion apparently trumps all and that some of us are not woman enough to participate in a Women’s March!  As I posted on Facebook, “It’s like you are not an actual woman if you are not pro-choice.”

Rebecca Bratton Weiss makes an excellent case for why the feminist movement needs to embrace pro-life feminists.  This resonated with me especially:  “We have risked personal and professional relationships in our staunch opposition to Donald Trump, our refusal to accept him as representative of anything remotely pro-life. I personally lost a business associate when I spoke out against his boasts of sexual assault, and the latent misogyny in those who dismissed this as ‘locker room talk.’ I’ve been spied on and screen-shotted by right-wingers who seem more interested in controlling women than in saving lives.

I, too, was attacked for my constant opposition to Donald Trump.  As I wrote days before the election:  “Already today I’ve received tweets hashtagged hypocrite, babykiller, and cafeteriaCatholic.  It’s just another day in an election season during which I’ve been unfriended by an actual family member, deemed excommunicated by the friend of a friend, and attacked in a public Facebook post by someone I thought was a friend, all because I shared political articles that they didn’t agree with.

Alice Paul, author of the original Equal Rights Amendment, said that abortion is “the ultimate exploitation of women.”  For pro-life feminists who risked a lot to vote for and publicly support Hillary, it’s adding insult to injury to not only end up with Trump as President but also to be sidelined by those who should accept us as allies.

Note:  I am happy to report that the Knoxville Women’s March has chosen not to officially adopt the national march’s platform and is aiming for an event that is unifying and non-partisan.

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On the eve of the 2012 Presidential Election, I put up a post about how I would be voting, and why.  By now, if you’ve been keeping up, you know whom I will be voting for tomorrow.  And I’ve even explained how I approached making this decision, as a Catholic.

What you might still wonder, though, is what is different about this year.  In 2008, I didn’t vote at all.  In 2012, I wrote in None of the Above.  What has changed?  Did I just convince myself to vote for Hillary Clinton because I love her so much and because I’ve always secretly yearned to vote for a Democrat?

Actually, I would have liked to have voted for President Obama in 2008.  I preferred him to McCain and I wanted him to win.  I would have liked to pull the lever for the first black President.  But I couldn’t find a proportionate reason to do so.

By 2012 I had serious reservations about our President, but his policies were still more agreeable to me than Romney’s were.  Yet, again, I did not vote for him.

What is special about this election?

Two words: Donald Trump.  Donald Trump is my proportionate reason for voting for Hillary Clinton.

Don’t misunderstand–I LIKE Hillary.  I don’t believe most of what the conservative media says about her.  I agree with nine-tenths of her ideas (and I don’t think I have to explain to you which ones I don’t agree with).  And I find a great deal to admire about her.  Plus she’s the most qualified person to ever run for President.

But if Jeb Bush were running, if John Kasich were running, if John McCain or Mitt Romney were running, I might be voting for one of them or writing in None of the Above again tomorrow.

Donald Trump CANNOT and MUST NOT be President.  I believe he poses a clear and present danger to the residents of this nation, to everything it stands for, perhaps even to its very existence.  All the harm he would do as President constitutes–for me–the proportionate reasons my conscience demands.

Now, as you may know, I am in Tennessee, which I have no doubt Trump will win tomorrow.  I’m not in a swing state, so why am I “endangering my soul” by the remote material cooperation in evil of voting for a pro-choice candidate?

It would be hypocritical for me to expect other pro-life Catholics in swing states to vote against Donald Trump if I refuse to do the same.  My vote may not go directly toward defeating Trump, but it may encourage others whose votes have that power.  I will also be demonstrating, through my vote and my testimony about it here and on my blog, that while there is a Catholic process for choosing your candidate, there is no one right choice for every Catholic.

So tomorrow I will cast my vote for Hillary with a clear conscience and the firm belief that Donald Trump and everything he represents must be repudiated.

 

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A few days ago I was invited to join a secret Facebook group.  I posted what follows by way of introduction and was overwhelmed by the support, understanding, and acceptance I received, even from people whose beliefs are very different.  Because so many people wanted a way to share what I had written, I decided to post it here with some slight editing to account for the potential wider audience.

As a devout pro-life Catholic, this election season has been a very trying time for me. Never in my lifetime has there been a candidate for President who aligned perfectly with my religious beliefs, and I have dealt with this in various ways in each election.

I wrote for the local Catholic press for many years, including writing a column specifically on life issues. I was the chair of our Diocesan Respect Life Committee and have 25 years of pro-life activism to my credit. I blog about life issues frequently and post publicly about them on Facebook. And I’m the mother of five children!

Yet none of this has stopped my being the target of vitriol from right-wing Catholics, many of whom will clearly do ANYTHING to justify the fact that they really just want to vote Republican. I’ve been talked down to, threatened with excommunication, and attacked, even as I have tried to create space for discussion on my Facebook wall and explained the Church teachings on voting and conscience which support my actions.

This year, I am voting for Hillary with a clear conscience. Despite my deep disagreement with her views on abortion it is quite clear to me that her other positions and her proposed policies are more in keeping with the Church’s teachings on the sanctity of life and social justice (not to mention the fact that she is way more qualified, not dangerous, and won’t bring disgrace to the office!). I am not holding my nose while I vote either–I am excited to be with Her!im_with_her

For more of my writing about Catholicism, voting, and politics, see the partial list below:

What’s a Catholic Voter to Do?

What’s a Catholic Voter to Do? (Part 2)

What’s a Catholic Voter to Do? (Part 3)

Catholic to my Toes

VOTING:  Not Toeing the Party Line

Talking to Kids about Politics

It’s Just Not Fun Anymore

Catholic Voting 101: A Guide for the Confused

Why Is This Election Different?

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After I was recently accused of being a “Democrat down to my toes,” my daughter bought me the socks in the picture above.  And while it’s true that I call myself a “pro-life Democrat” in my Twitter bio, the reality is somewhat more complicated.

My earliest political memory is going door-to-door with my mother handing out George McGovern flyers in 1972 when I was five years old.  I knew that he was a Democrat and we were too.

Next up was Watergate, and the graffiti on the wall of the unfinished part of the shopping mall in our neighborhood demanding “IMPEACH NIXON!”  What more proof did I need that voting Democrat was the way to go?

Since all my family were Democrats it was a rude surprise to me to be the only nine-year-old who raised a hand in support of Jimmy Carter in our classroom election in 1976.  That was my first introduction to the fact that most people in East Tennessee were not on the same page as me politically.

All this seems to be pointing to someone who has voted the Democratic ticket her whole life, right?  But if that’s what you were thinking, you’d be wrong.

I turned 18 in 1985, so I had to wait a long time to cast my first vote.  Longer than you’d expect, because I was in college in 1988, and didn’t send off for my absentee ballot in time.  I would have voted for Dukakis without a second thought, in fact without any thought at all, because I was a Democrat and if you are a Democrat you vote for the party’s nominee, right?

A lot changed in four years.  I cast my first Presidential vote for a REPUBLICAN.  I remember how clear things seemed to me in 1992.  Abortion was the gravest possible evil and George H.W. Bush was pro-life.  What other issue could compare?  By 1996 I was having second thoughts about single issue voting.  I couldn’t see that my pro-life vote had made any difference–Roe v. Wade still stood.  Clinton and Gore held to a pro-choice position, I never thought they were that enthusiastic about it.  And I agreed with them on just about every other issue.

So I was 29 years old before I ever voted for a Democrat for President!  I voted for Gore in 2000, and that was the last time.

I’ve written elsewhere the whole ugly story of 2004.  I may well have voted for Kerry, not especially enthusiastically, because of the Iraq war, but I was nine months’ pregnant and bed-bound.

By 2008 my conscience was pricking me.  I didn’t think it was WRONG to vote for a pro-choice candidate, but it felt wrong for ME.  I just couldn’t bring myself to do it, but neither could I bring myself to vote Republican (mind you, I wasn’t actively TERRIFIED of the Republican nominee–I just didn’t like his positions!).  So I went to the polls, voted in the local races, and didn’t vote for President at all.  I wanted Obama to win, I wanted our country to have its first black President, but I just couldn’t bring myself to vote for him.

In 2012 I felt even more strongly that I couldn’t vote for Obama, whose enthusiastic pro-choice views, cavalier disregard for religious freedom issues, and fondness for drone strikes turned me off even as I continued to like him personally.  Yet neither could I bring myself to pull the lever for Romney, whose pro-life commitment seemed lukewarm and whose positions left me cold.  That time I chose to vote None of the Above as a way of registering my dissatisfaction with the choices presented to me.

And this year . . . well, that will be the subject of another post. 🙂

So what does any of this mean? Am I a Democrat? A Republican? An Independent? Does it matter?

I have been known to refer to myself as a pro-life Democrat but that’s really just kind of a shortcut.  Most people know more or less what the two halves of that label stand for, so they can get a good idea of my beliefs in most areas if I call myself that.  And there really is an organization called Democrats for Life, but I haven’t signed up just yet.  Tennessee has open primaries, and I like voting in the Republican one because that’s where my vote can have more impact.   I have attended Republican political events and felt acutely uncomfortable at the cheerleading for positions I find reprehensible; I have a feeling I’d have a similar reaction to some topics that would come up at a Democratic rally.  I certainly don’t see myself donating money to the DNC or being a card-carrying party member.

Anyway, I hope you can see why it infuriates me to be told that I am a Democrat down to my toes, looking for any excuse to vote for a Democrat, when I attempt to explain why it’s not a mortal sin for a Catholic to vote for a pro-choice candidate.

 

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Twelve years ago, dismayed at all the misunderstandings and hatefulness I was seeing among Catholics over the Presidential election, I decided to write a column about it for the East Tennessee Catholic.  I thought I could dispel those misunderstandings and the hatefulness would cease.

Boy, was I wrong, wrong, wrong.

I was on bed rest (Lorelei was born just after Election Day) when the reactions to that well-intentioned column started coming in, but if I hadn’t been I might have taken to my bed anyway.  And if I had seen where we we’d find ourselves twelve years down the road, I might have never gotten up again.

Already today I’ve received tweets hashtagged hypocrite, babykiller, and cafeteriaCatholic.  It’s just another day in an election season during which I’ve been unfriended by an actual family member, deemed excommunicated by the friend of a friend, and attacked in a public Facebook post by someone I thought was a friend, all because I shared political articles that they didn’t agree with.

Rarely do I say anything about what my friends post on their own Facebook walls–with the rare exception being to offer a Snopes link to correct a blatant untruth.  I have never unfriended someone because I disagreed with their views. I welcome respectful discussion and try to learn from others and to at least understand why they believe what they do.

I’m a bad Catholic, of course.  I fall short on an hourly basis.  But I’m NOT a cafeteria Catholic.  Ask anyone who knows me and pore over every word I’ve written and try to find an example of any time I have EVER dissented from Church teaching.  You’ll need more than good luck and a magnifying glass because you won’t find anything.

 

The friend who attacked me on Facebook accused me of being a “Democrat down to my toes.”  I’ll write more about party affiliation another time, perhaps, but what I am down to my toes is CATHOLIC.  That’s my core, that’s my worldview, and EVERYTHING I believe and the way I try to live my life–including my political life–springs from that.

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Everyone who’s old enough to remember has a 9/11 story.  Mine is probably fairly typical of those of us with no personal connection to the events, and I’ve never written about it because it feels too much like trying to hop on the tragedy train in order to capitalize on the pageview potential.  But on this 15th anniversary I have some reflections I feel compelled to share.

My memories of that day are fragmented.  I was standing in my sunny yellow kitchen, chunky six-month-old William on my hip, when the phone rang–my husband, telling me to turn on the television.  A couple of hours later I picked him up at his downtown office and we went to lunch–at the top of the tallest building in Knoxville, which I remember feeling nervous about.

In the lobby of the building they were selling extra editions of the Knoxville News Sentinel, something so out of the ordinary that it was frightening.  We were all so desperate for news and there was no Twitter or Facebook to provide the instantaneous updates we’ve come to expect when a crisis strikes today.

On the elevator ride up to the 27th floor two men in business suits were discussing a mutual acquaintance whose son was in one of the towers.  At the time everyone still hoped he would be found alive.

I was worried when it was time to pick up the kids from school.  What did they know? What would I tell them?  Emily was ten and already knew.  Jake and Teddy were six and seven.  I remember at first just telling them that some bad people had done a very bad thing.  Because of my kids, I did not obsessively watch the television coverage for days as so many did.  I did not want them to see the towers falling.

The house we lived in back then was in a flight path.  We were accustomed to hearing noisy airplanes on their descent approach.  For the next few days, it was eerily quiet.  Once we heard an airplane and we all ran outside, terrified, to see a military plane overhead.  We were all on edge.  For some time after 9/11, loud noises made me jump.

Flash forward to the 10th anniversary, September 11, 2011, five years ago.  Six days out from our own personal tragedy, we were homeless–John and I and the little kids living with my sister Betsy, Emily away at college, Jake and Teddy staying with school friends, even our dog being farmed out to my other sister.  We had lost just about every material possession.  I didn’t have the emotional energy to think about 9/11.  I remember writing on Facebook that I felt guilty posting about our circumstances with all the posts about the anniversary reminding me that our tragedy was small by comparison.

Since its launch in 2004, Facebook has become a fixture in our society, the way most of us keep in touch,  read news, express our feelings on matters both personal and political.  I can’t help but wonder how our experience of 9/11 would have been different if Facebook had existed back then.  I know that in the case of our September 2011 disaster Facebook was how shared the news and received encouragement and help.  This year, on the 5th anniversary of the fire, I was looking forward to seeing those old posts in the “On This Day” feature that Facebook helpfully notifies me about first thing each morning.  I braced myself a little because those memories are painful, but recalling the support of friends, family, and acquaintances is uplifting.

Imagine my surprise, then, that even though five years ago I was posting about nothing but the fire and its aftermath for probably two weeks, my Facebook memories are a cheery collection of memes and articles and comments from every year but 2011.  Facebook has apparently decided without any input from me that the events of September 2011 are too traumatic and I couldn’t possibly want to revisit them.  Presumably if 9/11 had occurred in the Facebook era, it would also be scrubbed from everyone’s “On This Day” feature as something too dark to recall.

And while I am in awe of Facebook’s algorithms and appreciate their intent (as I know people in particular who have been blindsided by unexpected and unwanted visceral reminders of such events as the death of a child), I don’t WANT to forget September 2011.

I don’t particularly want to remember the sight of my burned down house and the destruction of all my treasured possessions, but I do want to remember the offers of shelter, the months of meals, the clothes and toys and gift cards, the love and the prayers.  I won’t forget them, not ever, but I also like seeing them on Facebook.  It’s worth seeing the pictures to see them, and the pictures provide the context for appreciating them.

Today my newsfeed is flooded with “We Remember” and “Never Forget” memes.  Some show the Twin Towers in ruins, some show them intact, bathed in heavenly light.  I’m sure when some people say they won’t forget they mean they won’t forget the terrorists, the hated enemies who committed this vile and cowardly attack, the outrage of being attacked on our own soil.  Our country has changed since 9/11 and I don’t think it has changed for the better.  We have become an angrier country, a frightened country, a deeply divided country.  That’s not the America I love and that’s not what I want to remember about 9/11.

What I want to remember are those who gave their lives in service to others, the way foreign countries rallied around us, the incredible feeling of unity as Americans.  And what struck me most at the time and remains with me now and what I want to remember most of all is the same thing I want to remember about September 2011:  the love–that when people were afraid they were going to die, the last thing they did if they could was call their spouses and parents and children, to say I love you just one last time.

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